When attempting to build a lean organization there is nothing more important than education. Teaching everyone in the facility about how lean works, educating them on the new processes which will be put in place, and explaining their role in the lean organization is absolutely essential. Helping everyone learn to focus on problem solving and waste elimination will transform an organization from where it is today into a lean more efficient facility with improved morale from top to bottom.
In order to facilitate this transformation, a facility must have a team of leaders who are willing to help people learn about the new processes, and are passionate about solving problems. Terry Howell said the following about building a lean organization:
The engine that drives a Lean culture is learning. Continual learning and involving employees in learning, is the most important prerequisite for leaders wanting to solve problems and design better processes and systems to meet their strategic objectives. Building a learning organization requires leaders, above all, to respect people and create an environment where people feel safe to say what they think.
Terry Howell – Lean Healthcare Exchange
This is an excellent introduction into what it takes to become a lean facility. Education and passionate leaders are two different things, but they complement each other very well. A passionate leader will want to educate themselves and those working around them. Educated individuals will appreciate the passionate leader, and become more passionate about the company as a result.
As with so many things in life, proper education and leadership in a workplace often starts with respect. Every company has a hierarchy of people who are responsible for running different areas, and this is a good thing. While these managers are supposed to be leading the people and the department, nobody should feel like those in leadership positions are better than those under them. Each individual has a role to play, and each role is essential to the success of the facility.
The leader should understand that he or she relies on the front line employees who are getting the actual work done. Without them, the leader would have no purpose. Those front line employees should see the leaders as a great resource for coordinating and implementing changes and improvements. Those changes and improvements may come directly from the leaders, or be filtered up from the front line employees. When there is respect, the leaders and front line employees aren’t battling each other, but working together for their own good and the good of the facility.
Creating a Positive Environment
Along with the respect, leaders should strive to create a positive environment where people work. A lean organization will be filled with people who are motivated at work. These individuals will come up with innovative ideas for improvement, which will be considered and implemented whenever possible. If people are only coming to work to get a paycheck, they will typically contribute the least amount of effort possible to get through the day.
A positive environment can be encouraged and achieved through encouraging education and improvement at all levels. Leaders can work on becoming better leaders, front line employees can work on improving the way their job is done, and the facility as a whole can run much more efficiently because of the great work everyone does.
Resource: Terry Howell How to Build a Learning Organization 5, Sept 2013