Lean Thinking

Lean implementation is generally thought of as an intrusion into one's everyday life - or so it would appear to the average worker who put in a good deal of time performing work with determination and skill, and now someone has come along and says the work in all wrong, it is inefficient, and needs that dreaded word - "change!"

This attitude is a very familiar one for the change agent who is looking to improve the company and needs the people to understand and get behind the ideas.  This is a barrier the Lean Leader will face, but not the only one.  There are a lot of barriers to a successful implementation of Lean Principles.

A Lean Leader needs to recognize the barriers to success faced by the team, and to coach the team around the pitfalls and guide them over the paths to success.  A lean leader must be aware of the mood of the team. There must be constant vigilance of the health of the team, the concerns expressed or the emotions displayed. Failure to do so will result in high turnover rates, loss of those with critical skills or experience, and low morale. Just as the human body uses homeostasis to regulate itself to 98.6 ºF, a Lean Leader needs to regulate the group’s expectations so they can act to keep the group’s fulfillment of needs stable.

There is a need to establish trust within the team.  The act of introducing change into a team can be very traumatic for the team, and for all those who interface to the team. Lean rips the fabric of the existing team, causing new lines of communication and expectation to be established which essentially causes a new team to form. Adding or removing a person, or changing the duties of an existing person, or changing the flow of product all has the same effect. It causes frustration when the new guy doesn't do the job right (the way the last guy did it), or makes the existing guy appear to have lost his mind after experiencing a sudden "epiphany of awareness" after a kaizen event, or a 10 year supervisor gets a case of nerves because Lean just doesn’t feel natural.

Most of the issues come down to the team’s trust in the lean leader. There is a tool for trust a lean leader can use to understand some of the needs of the team that should be considered during the process of introducing change. It's called the Trust Equation. 

The Trust Equation

The trust regression formula is:

Trust is a function of Competence plus Likability.

T ƒ C + L

This means that the amount of Trust is influenced by the amount of the other two factors.  If likability is increased, then trust will increase.  If likability is decreased, then trust goes down. Likewise, the amount of another persons competence will also increase or decrease our trust in that person.

Competence is the apparent job knowledge acquired either through experience or formal education and how well the lean leader is able to express possession of such knowledge.  By that, does this lean leader use knowledge indirectly in response to a discussion, or directly by pointing to diplomas and years in some job related position. 

Likability is how well the lean leader comes across as genuine and therefore someone the team might want to work along side. A person may be very likable but not knowledgeable, or visa versa.  To be effective the team needs a lean leader with both characteristics.

The Likability part is further broken into a second regression formula:

Likability is a function of Reciprocity and Approachability.

L ƒ R + A

Reciprocity is the lean leader’s ability to exchange information, respond to situational scenarios with similar stories from his or her own experience or to express some sort of supportive suggestion for how the team might resolve some expressed dilemma.  It’s a ‘tit-for-tat’ or a  ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ sort of exchange.  If I do this for you, what will you do for me?  You human behavioral experts might recognize this as the beginning of the mutual adjustment or expectation loop in communication.

Approachability is how well people immediately relate to looks, dress, jewelry, mannerisms and professionalism. It’s a sense of friendliness and a feeling that this lean leader and I will be able to sit and share time together in comfort.  This part of the equation looks at how well a person from the team may relate to the lean leader if placed into either a confrontational setting or a help seeking position.

Building Trust

With the understanding of how these parts of the trust equation fit together, a lean leader may be able to more easily navigate the rough team forming and storming stages.  The more seasoned lean leader can use the equation to foresee any possible difficulties that team members may have, and work toward clearing away the misunderstandings that stand in the way of the change.

Remember  these two points:

  1. information is rarely filtered on it’s way down the chain

  2. information is always filtered on it’s way up the chain

As trust goes up, critical information flow improves, team work goes up, creativity surfaces, and continuous improvements begin to take place. Being competent, friendly and helpful may seem like a natural way to be, but sometimes it takes a little extra effort.

The LeanMan Solution

The LeanMan Simulation and training products offer you and your team of Lean Leaders world-class training tools which enable you to see and think differently and gain essential skills to lead a Lean initiative in your organization. Through a hands-on simulation and examples, you will have the opportunity to practice the Lean Principles instrumental tools and techniques such as value stream mapping, team development, coaching, and problem solving.

Learning Objectives

Grounded in a proven tool set for Lean transformation, the LeanMan products have served the community of Lean Leaders in all industries from Health Care; Large Industrial Manufacturing Organizations; Small Business Owners; Consultants; Colleges and Universities in over 27 countries since 2004. Training materials are available to focus on the organizational development of people using Lean principles, and encourage a broad vision of Lean as a catalyst for organizational culture change and continuous improvement. As a result, your organization will be able to:

  • Explain Lean principles, systems, and tools and discuss how, when, and why they apply to your work environment
  • Explain how implementing Lean thinking is intended to create sustainable organizational culture change
  • Describe the features and attributes of a Lean culture and the Lean Transformation Model
  • Apply Lean principles and methodologies with hands-on demonstration of improved work processes and systems
  • Provide effective hands-on skills training for developing the problem-solving capabilities of your team members
  • Train Lean Leaders to own the role and function to development Trust and Empowerment in their teams
  • Analyze the application of Lean principles, systems, and tools needed for organizational improvement
  • Identify gaps between the current state and the desired future state of your organization

Take a close look at the Suggested Training Syllabus to see what important lessons and tools we offer to cover each of these points, and determine what you can bring to your organization.