11.03.2011

Not Only Achieving the Excellence, But Sustaining It...

Some surveys conducted during the past 30 years continue to find that upwards of 80% of the companies that start down the road to manufacturing excellence, using techniques such as TQM, Agile Manufacturing, Theory of Constraints, Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and others, end up stalled within two to five years. All these journeys probably began very seriously with high hopes for continuous improvement (CI), but early results eroded and hopes of sustaining long-term results faded. Based on the short-term results, every company that has used the various tools has found that they work. The point most often missed, however, is that continuous improvement is not, nor will it ever be, solely about the tools.

I recently asked Larry Fast (author of a new book titled The 12 Principles of Manufacturing Excellence: A Leader's Guide to Achieving and Sustaining Excellence): What does it take for companies to learn how to sustain their CI journey? Here is his response:

My book devotes almost no time on the use of tools but rather to those critical “infrastructure” items that must be in place for an enterprise to sustain the improvements for the long term. For example, the principles of safety and good housekeeping (#1 & 2) focus on the trust and discipline necessary to change culture while helping the hourly associates develop both competence and confidence in their ability to work a new way.

The principles (# 3 &5) of using only authorized formal systems/standard work further develops the discipline necessary for culture change while each important work process is being re-engineered for standardization and capability. A strong preventive/predictive maintenance system (# 4) demonstrates leadership’s commitment to making sure the machine operators always have equipment that is in proper working condition so they can control their process and deliver great products. Principles #10 and 11 provide the standard work necessary to perpetuate the replenishment of the trained people necessary to effectively fulfill their roles every day. Absent the sustaining of comprehensive training and communications, skills disappear, performance deteriorates and the dream of CI dies.

The final point is that the culture changes very gradually – that is, not because of some feel-good initiatives, but rather because the leadership has sustained their commitment on the pathways to excellence. When management reestablishes its credibility, it is because they have collectively provided the focus and organizational alignment consistently, day after day, month after month, year after year such that the workforce develops trust in their leadership. Further, when management provides the context for their work, provides the proper tools, training, maintenance, systems, processes, communications, follows up with attention to detail on commitments that have been made, then the associates experience the change. In fact, they live the new way of working and thinking, and begin to willingly take ownership/accountability for their work without feeling "put upon."

The culture of Operator-Led Process Control is not the starting point. It is the vision of the culture that we seek. And it will evolve as the outcome from meticulous execution of the first eleven principles to a level of Stage 4 excellence. But make no mistake: The first day any member of leadership decides to stop doing the training, the preventative maintenance, or the communications, that’s the first day that the business starts going backwards from whence it came.

What do you think of Larry's points? Do you agree with his comments about management credibility?

7 comments:

insight7227 said...

I agree with larry's comments. It is very basic,simple but yet it seems like management are more busy putting out daily fires(micromanaging)and spend no time thinking about the companies vision.Great stuff.

Dean Bliss said...

Good stuff. This is a topic that has has puzzled me since I started doing continuous improvement years ago. How can we set up an infrastructure that is maintained regardless of changes in leadership? Some great ideas here.

John W. Davis said...

The problem is that most Lean initiatives aren't aimed at thoroughly changing the system of production. Once a Lean initiative is started the key is to fully incorporate a true Lean system of production ("pull" rather than "push" throughout, Error Proofing, etc.)Properly doing so sets an operating philosophy in mind that makes returning to the old way of doing business as tough and burdensome as changing it in the first place.

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