There is no single way to apply Lean because no two organizations are alike. A simple roadmap would be great, but it just doesn’t exist. However, just like buying a car, a “test drive” is a well proven approach for most businesses. It gives you enough knowledge to decide how best to proceed to the next step of buying-in to Lean. Depending on the size of your business and the number of people, you may want to do more than one test drive.
Here’s what you’ll need for your test drive:
- A group of people in the company (3 to 7) willing to try out Lean.
- A consultant who has done this before and won’t charge the earth.
- Approval from management (if not part of your group) and any other stakeholders (unions, co-workers…)
- A bit of spare time (yeah this is the rub, but a good investment.)
- A problem or two that need fixing!
Here’s what you’ll do:
- With the help of your consultant, review the problems that need fixing and select one that will require a variety of Lean tools, isn’t too complex, touches a good cross section of people, and has real benefits attached to it.
- Next you’ll get some training on the basic Lean principles (value analysis, flow, pull, elimination of waste) and some of the tools you will need (depending on the project.)
- Most projects follow a standard step by step approach, like PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT, or for more involved projects DEFINE-MEASURE-ANALYZE-IMPROVE-CONTROL. Your consultant will lead you through each step, giving you ample opportunity to use the Lean tools and see how powerful and useful they can be.
- At the end, your group will have a great story to tell! That’s exactly the next step – to tell your management team all about it in a presentation. This will show them what you did, how you did it, and the benefits gained.
Of course, you’re asking how long this test drive will take, and how much time your group will need to put into it. This will depend on the problem, and the consultant should be able to give you a fair estimate of this at the selection step. However, most pilot projects should be able to be completed in 2 to 3 months, with approximately 40 hours required per team member.
If your test drive successfully proves that Lean works in your business, your management team will need to take the next steps. Even here, there is no single roadmap. However, a specific road map for your business will need to be created with the help of your consultant. It will likely include some or all of the following items:
- Executive training workshop
- Creation of a Lean Steering Council and / or Lean Champion
- Workforce communication plan and awareness training
- Splitting your business into Product / Process family groups
- Create current state and future state Value Stream Maps
- Identify and select projects
- Define teams
- Team Training (leaders to green belt, members to yellow belt)
Some organizations apply Lean by product family. Others simply use the tools on specific problems selected using a weighted scoring system. In some companies, Lean is used as to completely transformation the business, leading to a total change in the culture and ways of working for management and employees.