Lean: Top 3 lessons learned one year in
We’re now just past the one-year milestone in our Lean journey. It’s been an exciting year—we’ve had some great results, trimming waste from processes, creating efficiencies in our back office and streamlining service to members. Our employees are embracing the Lean mindset across the organization.
But as we often say at First West (and in the spirit of Lean), hard-and-fast numbers are only part of the story. Staying true to Lean, we’ve reflected in a hansei-like fashion to come up with our top three lessons-learned in our inaugural year. Whether your organization is new to Lean or you’re considering it, here are three things we believe merit special attention and awareness.
Lesson 1: Lean accelerates the pace of change
Part of Lean’s power is that it’s exponential: instead of having a small team of dedicated problem-solvers identifying areas for improvement, ideally your staff will become a broad network of problem-identifiers and solvers. This inevitably ramps up your organization’s awareness of and work on production or process issues. Tangible change will come quicker and more often, so your change management approach becomes paramount.
Lesson 2: Balance desire for change with capacity to make change
Part of Lean’s beauty is its simplicity and practicality—it enables an organization to find problem areas more quickly and easily. Therein lies the rub: many problem areas may be identified, but implementing many solutions can strain resources. Because Lean is truly a collective effort, it’s important then to make sure everyone takes responsibility to help put solutions in place, even so far as making it part of individual annual goals. At the business planning level, prioritizing organizational activities can help ensure that more involved Lean cycles finish with a timely implementation of solutions.
Lesson 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate
Effective communication can be a challenge for many organizations, regardless of size. Since Lean accelerates the pace of change, your communication must match that pace. Communicate consistently and clearly. Be transparent to help build and maintain trust in Lean, while dispelling misconceptions.
Our top three lessons are all closely connected. Your organization’s care and attention to any one of these areas will have a positive impact in another. For example, understanding that Lean will accelerate the pace of change (Lesson 1) will compel you to make sure your change management approach is working effectively—and a critical part of any change management program is effective communication processes. Looking at one area inevitably brings another into focus.
Make sure to add to our list. Tell us what lessons you’ve learned in your Lean journey. Leave a comment below—we’ love to hear from you.