Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Review: "Creating a Lean Culture"

I just finished reading "Creating a Lean Culture" by David Mann. I thought it was an excellent addition to the Lean library. Here's a quick recap of the highlights:
  • Lean processes need Lean management. As technical changes are made to the flow of work, we should concurrently make changes to our management system. A focus on PROCESSES (not just making the numbers) is a must. Changing the management system will eventually change the culture.
  • Lean management system consists of four principal elements: 1) leader standard work, 2) visual controls, 3) daily accountability process, and 4) leadership discipline
  • Leader standard work is the first element. Leader standard work consists of routine checks of many aspects of work (productivity, cleanliness, safety, quality, etc.). Redundancy is built in between management levels (team leads check on associates, supervisors check on team leads, production manager checks on supervisors, etc.).
  • Visual controls are the second element. Visual controls make it easy for front-line leaders to compare expected versus actual. They can be any type of visual communication that allows us to see the status of something at a glance. Visual controls are the link between the leader standard work and a daily accountability process (discussed next). Without visuals, it becomes nearly impossible to anticipate problems ahead of time.
  • A daily accountability process is the third element. This process takes the information that is gathered from the routine checks of front-line leaders and displays it in a visual way. Then, the information is assessed by the next level of leadership and any problems are addressed. There are three tiers of meetings: 1) associates w/ team leader, 2) team leaders w/ supervisor, 3) supervisors w/ production manager. Meetings should be brief (less than 15 minutes), held on the shopfloor with everyone standing, and centered around a visual display board. These meetings result in many follow-up assignments, which are tracked until completion. This allows front-line leaders to develop skills as project coordinators.
  • A visual improvement suggestion process supports Lean management. Basically, you just create a board with four sections: 1) Ideas, 2) To Do, 3) Doing, and 4) Done. Associates can easily suggest any idea, and then the board pretty much manages the information. As part of their leader standard work, Team Leaders follow-up on suggestions from their associates. This process allows everybody to have a voice, which goes a long way in gaining buy-in for Lean.

Most of these highlights come from the first half of the book. The second half deals with supporting elements of Lean management (the role of a sensei, gemba walks, leadership qualities, etc.). These are valid ideas as well, but I've often seen the same material in other books. The first half of the book has material that you don't see in too many other Lean books, and this is what makes this book an invaluable part of my reading list.

So, how does this all fit into our Lean initiative? Well, some locations are already implementing certain aspects of Lean management. I've seen a few examples of leader standard work, visual controls, daily accountability, and visual suggestion boards. They're all terrific tools, but only if accompanied by real Lean improvements (specifically improvements that contribute to the stability of our processes). Basic Workplace Organization (BWO) is designed to be an initiative that will create immediate improvement, that doesn't require any Lean expertise, and that will build discipline among our front-line leaders.

The key to BWO is the auditing process, which is a form of leader standard work (an element of Lean management). So, as the book suggests, we make real improvements while simultaneously implementing aspects of a Lean management system. That is the best way to sustain Lean improvements and build a Lean culture. That is what I learned from Mr. Mann's book.

1 comment:

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