I recently read a very informative article by Stephen Jannise on the Software Advice site that covers a concept often left out of Lean manufacturing discussions: lean labor management. This article pinpoints three key effects that Lean principles can have on labor management, particularly within the manufacturing industry. These effects are:
- The metrics of effort and success will differ from a non-Lean environment because the goals for productivity have changed.
- Employees will be expected to work with greater flexibility and adapt to unique problems that arise each day.
- Relationships between co-workers, superiors, and subordinates will be reshaped to emphasize managed cooperation over individualized labor.
Jannise continues with a more detailed analysis of each of these areas and makes some crucial points, such as: "If managers in a Lean workplace are going to convince workers to handle more complex tasks, then they must devise ways to reward flexibility," but the overarching theme reinforces an overall transformed mindset. All those involved in the Lean initiative must be ready to exit their respective comfort zones and realize that the majority of the traditional metrics and behaviors not only don't apply, but will ultimately prove detrimental.