The Achilles’ heel of a Lean programme

Generation gap between millennials and leadership is growing

Is Lean difficult to embed?

April 28, 2015 – by Otie Hauser &samhoud consultancy

How do you ensure that working in accordance with the Lean philosophy becomes embedded with an organisation’s DNA? This question undoubtedly occupies us all. &samhoud studied 15 Dutch organisations to find a response and in doing so gained many insights into success factors as well as pitfalls. We formulated three conclusions, the first two of which have already been discussed in previous articles:

This article shares the third and final conclusion of the Lean study: 

Conclusion 3: Embedding Lean in a sustainable manner requires more than a project alone

“Let us initiate a project to see whether Lean is suitable for our organisation”. This is how Lean is often introduced. Start off small and experience and see whether the philosophy works before rolling it out and embedding it. A project-based approach is often chosen by scrutinising a process. A Kaizen is used to eliminate waste from the process. Once the project has been completed successfully, the selected approach is rolled out further within the organisation. Recognisable?

Organisations that opt for such an approach can achieve positive results, particularly if the project is concrete, the results are made transparent and the improvements are actually also implemented. However, implementing changes and capitalising on the result is still a challenge from time to time. Despite the good results and the energy released by such a project-based approach, often the philosophy is not embedded within the organisational culture.

This approach does not allow the mindset of continuous improvement to be embedded within the organisation. This is primarily because Lean projects are implemented alongside daily work, which gives employees the impression that they need to do something extra. In a culture of continuous improvement, you do not need to do anything extra since continuous improvement is part of your work.

Consequently, embedding Lean within the culture requires more than just a project. You want people to ask themselves daily how they can perform better tomorrow compared to today. One of the ways to take a step in this direction involves starting with operational and visual management.

What is Operational and Visual management?
The vision, strategy and translated annual plans of an organisation play a leading role in the implementation operational and visual management. Within this approach, the strategic and operational goals are translated into shorter-term goals that apply specifically to that team. Goals and performances are visualised on a performance board, enabling the team to conduct focused discussions about performance and improvements.

On a daily, weekly or monthly basis, teams conduct performance-related discussions with the help of a performance board. They talk about their process on the basis of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) upon which they exert an influence.

Operational and visual management makes results transparent so that teams acquire an insight into opportunities for improvement. This process stimulates the mindset of continuous improvement and reinforces the demand from the team and employees to embrace the Lean philosophy and embed it within the culture.

Connecting the project-based approach with operational and visual management brings the Lean philosophy closer to regular work and therefore to an organisation’s DNA.

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


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