Industrial Update Article

Are Your Lean Efforts Achieving Sustainable Maximum Results?

By Russell Scaffede

After decades of companies implementing the lean tools of Toyota, it is estimated that less than 1% would achieve an A or B+ rating. Many of the leading guru’s of lean are now acknowledging this fact and shifting to what is now called “lean management.” Although changing management is absolutely required to achieve a total lean company, I fear it does not represent the actual condition and requirements a company needs to get maximum success from your lean efforts.

So what is the missing element toward sustainable success?

To accomplish total success, the company executive staff, lead by the CEO, must commit to make lean your “company’s operational competitive advantage.” I believe everyone who has studied Toyota’s success over the past 50 years does understand that within Toyota, the Toyota Production System is not just a set of manufacturing tools. It is a total company enterprise system which requires an understanding of every functional department within the company. Obtaining a total competitive advantage requires the leadership team to integrate lean tools with a total company lean leadership development (lean management) and strategy.

I believe this quote from Fujio Cho, Vice Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, describes the use of lean tools and lean management the best: “Brilliant process management is our strategy. We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes. We observe that our competition often gets average (or worse) results from brilliant people managing broken processes.”

This is where lean management has not kept pace with lean tool development. The focus of improvement within the company is guided by a highly effective, cascading annual plan (Hoshin). At all levels the goals of the plan must be established so that the team involved clearly understands how that goal relates to the team and company. This must be lead by the CEO and executive team down to each individual supervisor and department leader in the company. Options for participation must be presented. The Human Resource department has a large responsibility to develop the participation model and competency-training model. For lean management, the leadership teams must be trained concerning how to use tools of lean and foster participation for continuous improvements for the good of all stakeholders.

Equity and job security must be studied, developed and implemented for the entire company. If these are established with a true and sincere belief in people, the entire team will develop a renewed identity with the company, allowing constant and sustainable success.

In conclusion, operation success is not chasing Toyota, lean tools, lean management or any of the other fads current or past. It is achieved by the executive team developing your companies lean system, including your philosophies, lean-management direction and lean tools used by the entire organization. It takes a total commitment by the entire leadership staff to develop and foster a lean enterprise system. We do believe there is a roadmap for this enterprise development following the book “The Leadership Roadmap” by Dwane Baumgardner and myself.

Good Luck on your lean journey.

Russ Scaffede has worked in lean manufacturing for the past 38 years. He learned the integration of lean with Scanlon while working for Dwane Baumgardner at the Donnelly Corporation. He is currently working to assist companies with the integration of people systems and a lean system.