Lean Concepts are Intertwined

When working with an area, department or organization to implement lean people like to focus on implementing a specific tool or concept, but it’s not that easy.  The concepts and tools are so intertwined that focusing on one is really difficult to do.

An example would be implementing SMED (or quick changeover) across a facility.  A vast majority of the time a large opportunity for improvement is through organization, having the tools you need where you need them and knowing when and where to be for the changeover.  Immediately, other concepts that come to mind are visual management to understand when and where to be without having to ask.  Also, 5S which can help with organization and having the right tools at the right spot.  5S is also a component of visual management.

A second example is implementing strategy deployment.  There is standard work to how to cascade catchball down through the organization and it should be documented to be repeatable.  Then the strategy is usually documented on an A3 to help communicate the message and most companies use visual management to show progress to the entire organization as time progresses.

As a person working to help others implement lean, it is OK to let them believe they are only focusing on one concept to start.  Sometimes thinking about the intertwined concepts can become overwhelming.  Let the customer focus on the one concept and introduce the other concepts through the backdoor.  There is no need to call out the lean concept.  Just discuss what a way to help them solve their problem in further implementing the concept the are focusing on.

At a later date, you can show them how they have actually implemented other lean concepts successfully.  This helps build their confidence, shows further progress then what they believed and builds momentum to continue moving forward and taking more on.

Don’t get hung up on explaining all the intertwined concepts.  Delivery on the needs of the customer and it will all work out.

Posted on August 1, 2013, in Tools and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great post! Sounds like a reasonable way of handling the intertwined concepts. And a good observation as well, that this is what they are.

    When comparing to other things in life it seems necessary to exactly not learn everything at once – and not even pretend to just learn one thing while really learning it all. Examples are the alphabet: you will not write anything useful until you know it all. A foreign language: you can quickly learn a few words and start saying “Parlez-vous français?”, but if you cannot understand the answer it will get you nowhere.

    But with Lean, the important thing is not to understand everything but to do it. Only problem with not understanding is that the effort you make in improving things will be forgotten soon after you have left. Of course that particular improvement is there, but maybe something needs to be changed later, and since noone knows why it was done like it was, they are not likely to do it again in a similar quality.

    So, as I see it, your approach is perfect when you have a chance to continue your efforts until the customer really has learned everything necessary.

  2. What a load of tripe. Lean systems thinking is nothing new…its simply a re-invention of basic management responsibility, ok things have changed since Henry ford developed assembly line manufacturing, but the people most suited to spot and resolve an issue are managers. My observation from local government in the UK is managers are abdicating that responsibility thinking “lean practitioners” should do the work. I am trained as a system analyst and am appalled at the bogus “science” consultancies sell to naïve organisations.

    Systems analysis and development is just that, consultancies keep changing the name to make “customers” think they are buying a new service.

    Everyone should remember the objective of a consultant; to separate you from your money with the minimum of effort on their part.

    Managers should consider; when was the last time a consultant’s advice was right?

    National Computer (UK) Centre Project life cycle, lean system thinking, Agile; and what ever comes next, they are all re-inventions of the same common sense approach to business management. Do not get bedazzled by the hype…or the groupies.

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