Empowering Workers to Enact Change

One of the concerns I’ve always had about Lean is the strong focus on process and the somewhat weak focus on people. World Class Manufacturing predated Lean, and it was comprised of three basic elements, one of which is involving people:

1) Total Quality Management

2) JIT

3) Total Employee Involvement

While the House of Lean has a pillar named Respect for People, in practice most organizations focus on process improvement and workplace organization and overlook worker involvement. Particularly in Six Sigma the worker is often pushed aside while the experts determine the improvements.

Peter Drucker considered his most important contribution to be the concept of the responsible worker and the self-governing plant community. He formulated much of his thinking on this topic during his project with General Motors in the early 1940s, well before the Toyota Production System came on the scene. One of Drucker’s biggest disappointments was his apparent failure to convince US automakers to use these concepts, while Japanese companies seemed to pick them up and run.

Part of the critical change component – strong leadership – involves empowering people at the point of work. Be sure any improvement opportunities include that consideration.

© 2016 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved.

Where Do You Find the Best (Human) Resources for Implementing Change?

Resources is the third of four Dimensions of Executive ThoughtSM. When companies are ready to implement lasting change, executives should consider whether to use internal or external resources. The key word here is “lasting.”

One of the problems with Six Sigma is the Black Belt. These people are highly trained individuals who come in and take over the process of change. Unfortunately, when they leave, the knowledge leaves with them and the improvements tend to backslide.

Outside consultants offer unique benefits:

  • They provide expertise that doesn’t exist internally
  • They supplement inside resources
  • They’re capable of dealing with politically charged issues
  • They can help set the framework for profit and growth in operations and supply chain

Companies often use internal resources when they should go outside, and vice versa. It’s important to strike a balance between internal and external resources to drive innovation and sustain the improvements over the long term. Executives and management must take an honest look at their options, because the right people are essential to creating lasting change.

© 2015 Rick Pay – All rights reserved.

Ten Themes for Process Improvement

Over the years, I have developed the following list of themes for process improvement:

  1. Identify your partners (suppliers, customers, internal) and engage them in the improvement – develop a win/win opportunity.
  2. The best ideas for improvement often come from the lowest levels of the organization – the front lines.
  3. Look everywhere for improvement opportunities, not just direct labor. Often the largest opportunities are in areas typically overlooked in most Lean and Six-Sigma initiatives.
  4. Learn how to frame the issues for better understanding.
  5. Be aggressive in getting to the real issue – don’t just apply bandages to the symptom.
  6. Operations and process discipline are critical for success.
  7. Having a vision is vital to setting a direction for targeted process improvement – it establishes true north.
  8. Metrics are vital to behavior change, which is necessary to sustain process improvement.
  9. For process improvement to be sustained, it must be ingrained in the culture by including it in the evaluation and hiring process.
  10. Eliminate first, then simplify what is left – use automation sparingly

© 2014 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Ask The Right Question

Zero is always the lowest cost activity

Many executives try to improve their companies by asking the question, “How can we improve the process?” That’s the wrong question. The right question is, “How could we eliminate the process?”

Companies spend too much time trying to improve things that shouldn’t even be done. In their zeal for continuous improvement, companies brandish flowcharts, Kaizen and Six-Sigma at processes that should in fact be eliminated. Now that is true waste.

The order of improvement activities should be:

  1. Eliminate
  2. Simplify
  3. Improve

Eliminate those things that don’t add value for the customer. Then simplify the complex, and improve what’s left.

To achieve truly breakthrough results, the equation is simple. Zero is always the lowest cost activity.

© 2013 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Why Are We Still Failing With Lean?

The other day I looked over a proposal I wrote almost 10 years ago. In it, I quoted an article from the California Management Review: “while the number of tools, techniques and technologies to improve operational performance are growing rapidly… most efforts to use them fail to produce significant results.”  Around that time, I attended an executive program at MIT, whose studies suggested that 70% of companies that tried implementing Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma failed.

These are sobering statistics, and new studies suggest the failure rate is even higher. It’s true that our tools and techniques continue to grow, but have companies really achieved significant results, and if not, why not?

The failures have two elements in common. First, the changes that companies try to make in their operations and supply chain are not linked to goals and strategies. Without a close connection to strategy, executives lose interest, especially when results don’t come quickly. When they become disengaged the initiatives lose momentum.

Second, many companies lack the ability to manage change. Change management isn’t widely taught at universities, and most managers learn through the college of hard knocks. When a change initiative comes along, without broad executive support, managers will run for cover and focus on their day-to-day jobs. This is a good way to miss opportunities for improvement.

Sound strategy tied to the overall goals of the business and company skills in change management will help you avoid becoming another statistic.

© 2013 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

Empowering Workers to Enact Change

One of the concerns I’ve always had about Lean is the strong focus on process and the somewhat weak focus on people. World Class Manufacturing predated Lean, and it was comprised of three basic elements, one of which is involving people:

1) Total Quality Management

2) JIT

3) Total Employee Involvement

While the House of Lean has a pillar named Respect for People, in practice most organizations focus on process improvement and workplace organization and overlook worker involvement. Particularly in Six Sigma the worker is often pushed aside while the experts determine the improvements.

 

Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker considered his most important contribution to be the concept of the responsible worker and the self-governing plant community. He formulated much of his thinking on this topic during his project with General Motors in the early 1940s, well before the Toyota Production System came on the scene. One of Drucker’s biggest disappointments was his apparent failure to convince US automakers to use these concepts, while Japanese companies seemed to pick them up and run.

Part of the critical change component – strong leadership – involves empowering people at the point of work. Be sure any improvement opportunities include that consideration.

© 2013 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved.

Are Your Operations Truly Agile and Flexible?

Many Operations organizations seem to plateau after several years of implementing continuous improvement, Lean or Six Sigma. I believe that the next step is to become truly agile and flexible. But what does that mean?

Agility is the ability to think quickly and make quick and well coordinated movements. The key here is quick. I see many organizations take forever to solve problems and develop new innovations. One client I have is struggling to improve shipped on time, with many meetings, excuses and delays. Being agile would suggest that we should see initial significant results in 90 days or less. There is a Japanese term for this – Kaikaku – which means quick, revolutionary change. Agile thinking helps.

Flexibility includes the ability to bend without breaking, susceptibility to modification, and willingness to yield. Two key words there are susceptibility and willingness, because the great measure of flexibility is in your head. Organizations need to be willing to make the necessary changes to get where they want to go. So many companies struggle with change initiatives simply because they aren’t really willing to change, don’t believe they can, or are locked into the old ways of doing things.

To truly move to the next level, organizations need to be agile and flexible.

© 2011 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved