Meet Thijs de Boer

Is Lean difficult to embed?

The Achilles’ heel of a Lean programme

April 22, 2015 – by Otie Hauser &samhoud consultancy

My previous article, part 1 of the Lean study entitled “Lean is often a waste of effort”, shared the first of three conclusions with you. The second conclusion from the &samhoud Lean study I wish to share with you will not sound strange. This conclusion is vital if a Lean programme is to succeed. I also believe it is even decisive for an organisation’s success.

Conclusion 2: The Achilles’ heel of a Lean programme: opaque operational and visual management and mediocre leadership

The level of operational and visual management in relation to the benefits of improvement-related initiatives is inadequate. In fact, there is very little operational and visual management at all. According to the study, organisations with a lower than average score have a distinct lack of proper operational and visual management and inspiring and disciplinary leadership. The responses to the questions about the “managerial control” component also yield very different scores.

This component of the Lean study includes several questions about, amongst other things:

  • Strategy deployment: translating the strategy to unit, departmental and team level
  • Week starts: discussing (team) performance (at least) with the help of visual aids and looking for ways to improve performance
  • Measuring and monitoring the impact of improvement-related ideas using KPIs
  • Connecting Lean with the regular planning and control cycle

Operational and visual management is one of the means with which an organisation has to take control and remain in control. Leaders and employees, of course, also need information and data to keep a grip on the operation and achieve goals. But compiling the right information and data is not the only important aspect. It is primarily about how you can then use that data. This is why connection with leadership is so essential. All information and data may be organised properly, but will remain a weak link if a manager does not manage according to it.

We asked respondents why they lapse back into old habits. It then becomes clear how important it is to manage, measure and focus according to results, in combination with leadership. No fewer than that 22% of respondents indicate that the Lean method is inadequately promoted and utilised. The incentive to work on the basis of Lean is lacking because the connection with the vision and strategy is inadequate, insufficient KPIs are formulated clearly and can be influenced, people do not communicate with each other, and positive or negative consequences. Lean can only be successful if the manager actively manages and steers.

For employees then also know to what extent the results contribute to the creation of the organisational strategy. Making results and progress explicit creates a sense of excitement and results in satisfaction. An alert manager can make a difference.

The study demonstrates that if Lean is connected to the organisation’s vision and strategy, a key cornerstone for sustainable embedding has been laid. It provides direction and meaning if employees see and experience that their daily work contributes to the organisation’s vision and strategy. But the connection between operational and visual management and leadership appears to be the most distinctive element. This is demonstrated by the two best-scoring organisations from the study. Good leaders clarify that the direction in which the organisation is moving dovetails with the greater whole: the vision and strategy. These top-scoring organisations also prove to be very similar in relation to all components of the study. Lean apparently works best if it forms an integral part of everyday work.

Learn more about the integrated approach and be inspired by our cases:

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • email

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *