Implementing Lean manufacturing can appear to be an overwhelming task, especially when you run into a lot of resistance from the existing culture. Like any new philosophy, Lean quickly gets the attention of personnel throughout the company.
At first, this attention comes in the form of making you aware of all of the reasons that Lean will not succeed. We combat this type of resistance by letting everyone know that we’ve heard the most common excuses like, “We tried that years ago,” or “We don’t do things that way here,” and “…but, those companies aren’t like ours.” The adverse reaction can eventually change to sincere interest with patience and a proven method.
Our method of beginning the transformation to Lean takes advantage of the Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect is a phenomenon where people change their work habits when they know they’re being observed, or their performance is being measured.
So, instead of attempting to make the entire company Lean, we focus my Lean effort on one small area or department.
The more disorganized and inefficient this department is, the better this method works. We start by administering a 5S methodology to get the area clean and organized. Immediate efficiency gains will be seen because less time is being wasted simply looking for things. Once the 5S system is established, more ideas will begin to flow from team members.
Lean has given the employees a voice, and now their plans can be implemented to make additional improvements to efficiency.
In the old culture, metrics might have been frowned upon, but now these performance measurements are embraced because they are being used to highlight the Lean team’s success to the rest of the organization. Additional Lean tools can then be utilized to reduce waste further and complete the conversation from a troubled department to a continuously improving team.
The rest of the organization will want to join the new culture when they see the successful results of your targeted Lean implementation.
When you reach this Lean tipping point, be prepared to create a Lean team with the principal members of each department to promote the sharing of ideas and experiences. Resistance to change is usually extremely strong, and you will have to work harder and longer than you may think to reach this tipping point where Lean takes hold and begins to spread through the company.
The improved culture and efficiency gains will make it well worth the effort.