Lean Culture – Implementation Guide

While writing or editing my material for Lean Culture – The Leader’s Guide I realized that it would be helpful to have a one page flow diagram of the process of developing lean culture. After sharing this and getting feedback from a couple of clients who are engaged in the effort, this diagram is the result.

The change effort can then be divided into two major tracks of activity. One is focused on aligning the systems, structures and symbols of the organization to support the new culture. The second is focused on behavior change, a change in the daily habits of how we work and manage.

Aligning Systems, Structure and Symbols

Many lean implementations focus on the flow of the work alone, establishing just-in-time inventory, Kanbans and reducing interruptions and delays in the flow of “things.” In other it is focused on the engineer of the material side of lean, not the people or culture side. The problem is that if you want to optimize flow, people either make that happen or get in the way. Often the structure of the organization creates silos that inhibit rapid decision making, the levels and job definitions are appropriate for a traditional organization, not a lean organization. And, the symbols create more division and demotivation than unity and motivation to work in teams and continuously improve. Aligning systems, structure and symbols does not happen by accident. The leadership team needs to appoint a team with responsibility for defining the future culture and creating alignment of systems, structure and symbols so they facilitate rather than inhibit continuous improvement.

Building the Daily Habits of Lean Culture

Lean culture can not be achieved by most organizations unless all levels of management, as well as first level employees, develop the habits of continuous improvement within their natural team structure. The plant manager or CEO must model the behavior of process improvement, customer focus, score-keeping and continuous improvement if they are going to expect the same at the work team level. Changing the daily habits of management is often the most difficult part of a lean implementation. Changing these daily habits is the focus of Lean Team Management.

Of course, it is an explanation of these two tracks of change, and the behavior of leaders that is the focus of my new book.