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In the last couple of posts I talked about the importance of looking at the organization differently, expanding thinking beyond our day to day limited view to find ways to change processes and technology to improve the business, successfully navigate the current economic situation and become more profitable.  This post is a continuation to discuss how to get started. The idea of creating a lean organization is a concept that today many executives are talking about.  You could almost say it is the new fad!  I am a very strong proponent of lean thinking and do believe it is the next level for business to improve productivity.  Most companies have the core business systems needed to function and so the benefits of just implementing technology have already been integrated into the organization.  So using Lean principles to get the next level of productivity is important especially with the current economy.  However, like many new ideas or concepts, it is easier said than done.

So what are some of the challenges that companies face when they want to take on lean projects.

  •  Resistance to Change and Skepticism
  •  Lack of Expertise in Lean Process
  •  Lack of Exposure to other Technologies and Processs
  •  Lack  of Time – Too Busy Chopping Wood To Sharpen the Ax Syndrome
  •  Lack of a Decision Process on Policy Changes, Project Priorities etc.

These are all very real challenges and not unlike the challenges faced when new technology is implemented. The first thing for organizations planning to apply lean processes is to realize these challenges exist and plan how they will be addressed.  I will discuss each challenge individually in future posts.

The next step in getting started is to pick a pilot target area. This should be an area in which the lean process has strong support at all levels of management. It should also be an area where there is significant pain in the processes.  For example, a process in which the competition has an advantage over your company.  Or an area where employees are working significant overtime, have high error rates and/or can’t keep up with the volume of work.

Once the pilot area has been identified, you need to determine the team members that will be involved.  It is very important to have team members from different areas of the company, not just from the selected business area.  If the team consists of just personnel that work in the area to be addressed there is a very strong tendency to make very limited changes.  You should include employees from departments that are touched by the area to be made lean.  The goal is for the team to understand the entire business process from the beginning to the end, not just the area that seems to be the problem.  It is also very beneficial to include on the team personnel that have experience at other companies.

Finally, bring in outside support.  You do not want an outside consultant to do all the work, however, you Do want an outside consultant to provide input in the following areas:

  • Project Management 
  • Envisioning possible new processes
  • Mentoring team members 
  • Change Management

 The consultant should be a firm  who has experience with lean techniques, the business processes, technology solutions and change management.  By doing this it enables you to overcome some of the change resistence, keep the project moving forward and provide insight into new process options and supporting technology.

Get started with your project. Keep moving forward and Be Successful!!