Four Steps to Implement Lean Management from the Bottom UpWhat if you are not in a leadership role at your company, yet are committed to implementing Lean practices? Often, employees know that waste is occurring before executives realize that there is a problem. Companies can even collapse without anyone in a leadership position recognizing Lean as a solution.

If you are a non-manager who wishes to implement Lean management, it may be possible to get recognition and support for your ideas, provided you are willing to devote time and effort to this pursuit. Start with this technique.


How to Implement Lean Management From the Bottom Up

Make One Simple Proposal

Locate one way that established procedures are forcing you to create waste. If you are an automotive technician, is it necessary to walk across the room for materials that could easily be placed within reach as you enter the garage area? If you are working with heavy equipment, does its maintenance schedule take it offline at high volume times, wasting productivity?

Once you have found a single, easily identifiable waste that directly affects your position, propose to change it. Work with your immediate supervisor, using facts and figures to illustrate the problem and make a Lean suggestion. Ask your supervisor if you may implement this change for just 90 days and report back. In most cases, if you have suggested a change that does not require higher-level authorization or affect other workers, you will receive permission.

Track Lean Success

Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for this change. Is it the speed at which cars get in and out of your bay? The number of parts manufactured per hour? Net Promoter Scoring from customers who work specifically with you? Whatever your KPIs are, they should be easily tracked and have a definitive impact on the company's bottom line.

Now, track these KPIs daily as you implement your Lean change. Make sure that your results can be independently verified. You will likely need to retrain yourself, especially if you have been doing a fast-paced job for months or years and your "muscle memory" retains old ways of doing tasks. Once you have internalized your change, you should see substantial improvement.

Present Your Results

After 90 days have passed, schedule time to present your results. Use graphs, charts, and possibly even a live demonstration, if applicable. You want to make your supervisor think, "Wow! Now how can we get the same results throughout my department?"

Advocate for Further Implementation

If you have succeeded in the previous step, your manager will give you permission to make your change permanent. Next, suggest methods of implementing it across the board, so that other individuals within your department are benefiting from Lean practices as well.

Offer to attend meetings and act as an advocate for this change with senior management, or to prepare materials for your manager's presentations at these meetings. Change from the bottom is slow, but over time, with dedication and persistence, you can illustrate the benefits of Lean practices and strongly encourage a Lean transition, even if you are not a manager yourself.

What Hospitals Can Learn from the Auto IndustryA few years ago, the Clinton Global Initiative announced a national program aimed at helping schools, hospitals and other nonprofits stretch their dollars further.

I took special note of this because the program was in partnership with Toyota and featured the Toyota Production System (TPS).

The initiative, TPS was successfully applied at a New Orleans recovery organization, a community food pantry in New York City, and a hospital in Pittsburgh.

Having had success with TPS at the core of our company I couldn’t agree more with the experts who believe it can be applied to other organizations.

TPS is designed to reduce cost by eliminating wastes with the goal to have the highest quality product at the lowest cost possible with the shortest lead-time.

Five Ways Hospitals Can Learn from the Auto Industry

Becker’s Hospital Review outlines five key principles that hospitals - or any organization - can learn from the auto industry.

  1. Eliminate waste. One key principle of lean management is the elimination of any activity that does not add value to an organization's end product. For hospitals, this refers to any activity that is not necessary in providing excellent patient care.
  2. Keep inventory low. Another principle of lean management is using what is referred to as a "just-in-time" (JIT) inventory strategy, which aims to reduce inventory and associated carrying costs. Not overstocking supplies can help reduce supply costs associated with supplies that expire before they are used and the cost of storing extra supplies.
  3. Embrace technology. The use of technology to improve processes and eliminate waste is embraced by TPS. Technology can reduce the manual labor involved in many processes that take place within an organization and improve overall efficiency.
  4. Value employees and develop people. Lean organizations differ from traditional organizations in putting the power of improving an organization into the hands of the employees that directly interact with the end product, rather than management. Lean organizations train employees in lean processes and entrust them with developing the organization.
  5. Continually improve. The largest difference between traditionally managed organizations and lean organizations is their focus on systemic improvement. Lean organizations focus on identifying the root causes of all problems and adjusting processes to stop the same problems from occurring in the future.

Lowering costs, increasing employee value, and a dedication to continuous improvement should be a priority for any successful leader. In turn, it is what will help create successful companies.

What steps can your company make to begin applying Toyota Production System (TPS)?

How to Use Value Stream Mapping to Eliminate WasteThrough value stream mapping, you can visualize any production process and identify waste in both production and design processes. You don't need expensive solutions, the most important tool in implementing lean manufacturing to reduce waste may be the most low-tech thing on your desk: A pencil.

What is Value Stream Mapping?

In its simplest form, value stream mapping is a visualization tool tracing a product family's path backwards from the customer. The exact structure may vary, but one common method involves drawing steps that add value across the map's center and placing non-value-adding steps vertically at right angles to the value stream. Though a value stream map can be created with in-depth research, many leaders also draw rough value stream maps while observing a manufacturing process as it takes place.

The ultimate goal of value stream mapping is the creation of a future state map, which lays out a vision for the implementation of a value-adding flow in the production and design of products or the delivery of services. Setting a current value stream map and a future state map side by side provides leaders with a valuable, yet simple, method of demonstrating the need to eliminate waste in an organization.

Value Stream Mapping as an Introduction to Lean Manufacturing

If you are not already working in a lean environment, you can argue powerfully for adoption of lean practices by presenting a value stream map  demonstrating waste. Whether you identify a feature that fails to add value for the customer or an unnecessary movement slowing production, if your suggestions increase efficiency and improve product flow, you'll boost profitability.

When creating your first value stream map, consider reviewing others' maps and techniques. Many helpful resources are available online. Two particularly relevant books, both by Mark Rother (one co-authored with John Shook), are excerpted free through Google Books: Learning to See and Toyota Kata. A simple image search for "value stream map" also yields relevant examples.

Who Should Create a Value Stream Map?

Though anyone can draw a basic value stream map, some large organizations appoint one or more value stream managers responsible for understanding products from a value stream perspective. These individuals function as an antidote to siloing and miscommunication.

Though a value stream manager, if available, should take primary responsibility for building in-depth understanding of current value streams and creating future stream maps, any executive implementing lean methodologies should know how to read or draw a value stream map.

Quality and Your Value Stream

The most common objections to value stream mapping revolve around quality: "But what if eliminating a process the map shows as wasteful reduces product quality?"

In reality,  the opposite result is likely. Defects in quality are immensely disruptive to product flow and manufacturing efficiency. Likewise, inefficiency is immensely disruptive to customers' perceptions of quality. After all, the customer can hardly praise a product's quality if it hasn't been shipped due to a wasteful process delaying production.

Do you use value stream mapping in your organization?

How To Apply Lean Principles To Time ManagementLean management is a broadly applicable philosophy that can increase production at all levels of an organization.

Continuous improvement should be your standard for your own work as well as that of employees.

Lean principles not only enhance productivity, but also allow leaders to understand how employees respond to Lean transitions.

At the core of Lean's success is its insistence upon empowering every employee to improve. Empowerment and accountability start on the ground floor, but must not stop there.

Three Lean Principles For Time Management

Here are three methods of Lean thinking you can apply today to better manage your time.

Keep the "Customer" In Mind

When you do not "think Lean," you will likely start your day with the work that presents itself first. Instead, make a habit of taking 10 minutes every morning, without distractions, to prioritize your work based on its value to the many "customers" you serve.

What will stakeholders most value from you today? How can you best serve your fellow leaders?

This thought exercise may lead you to discover that you are spending the lion's share of your productivity on tasks that are not valued by key "customers."

Use Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is used to chart a product's journey from raw materials to the end user, with the goal of eliminating waste. You can use roughly the same strategy to more efficiently manage projects that require your participation, but for which you are not solely responsible.

Let us say that your company is preparing a public statement about a product recall in your industry. The "raw materials"--a rough draft--will be sourced from a communications manager. The statement then "flows" up the chain to you for approval, potentially passing through multiple communicators and your legal team along the way. Once you have weighed in, the draft will flow back to your communications team and be delivered by a company leader.

If you spend five minutes sketching a time management value stream map before assigning this type of work, you may find that your original plan would force you to wait for redundant feedback, or would delay the statement's release by delivering it to you for editing at an inconvenient time. By understanding the flow of this "product," you can ensure that it is delivered more efficiently.

Watch Out for Wasteful Injury

Reduction of unnecessary movement is a common Lean management goal, usually targeting shop floor employees. Along similar lines, you may be wasting productive time because your working style causes unnecessary pain, leading to time off and/or frequent breaks during the day.

Consider having your workstation evaluated by an ergonomics expert. Instead of waiting until your level of productivity has been reduced by pain to stretch, schedule short breaks to walk around your office and limber up. If possible, use an adjustable desk to alternate between standing and sitting while you type.

Do you use Lean principles for time management?

How to Apply Lean Management to Nonprofit Organizations

Can Lean management produce the same benefits for nonprofit organizations as for corporations? Opponents of Lean nonprofit management say that Lean works in business because a profit motive exists; in charitable work, there is no such motive. Therefore, Lean is said to be a poor fit which could interfere with organizations' laudable aims.

An Alternative to the Profit Motive

Arts coordinator Jennifer Tobin might cite another motivating factor driving charitable organizations to get lean: Survival. Her Michigan theater, described as "lean and mean," has thrived despite a recession that left similar organizations reeling.

Jennifer succeeded where others failed, opting to reinvent her theater's pay structure for performers, keep payrolls lean, and trim operating expenses. But can the choices that worked for Tobin save other struggling nonprofits? What about organizations that do not sell tickets, or those operated entirely by volunteers? (more…)

Lean Management“Lean” is a set of management principles based on the Toyota Production System (TPS), coined by a group of MIT researchers who wrote, “The Machine that Changed the World.”

It’s been applied to manufacturing (factories, product design, administrative functions) and service industries (healthcare, finance, telecommunications) and the United States Army has had an active lean program in place since 2006.

How Do We Define “Lean?”

As a production principle, the core idea of lean principles is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste—more value with fewer resources. A lean organization understands and focuses its key processes to continually increase customer value. (more…)

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