Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Recognizing a Lean Organization

First impressions are lasting! When I walk into your organization, what impression will you leave? What story do your people tell? What message do they send? Does the story and message align? Do you walk the talk?

Lean organizations never fail to impress me. From the wait time at reception, through the safety orientation and the facility walk through, these organizations have their act together. It’s about caring for people and the total customer experience. Whether the visitor is a customer, a prospective employee, or a tourist, you only have one chance to make that first impression.

What do I notice and look for during that first walk through at a facility? What are the indications that this company has their act together and is on their way to becoming a lean enterprise?

Here is a short list of some tell tale signs;

• Clear signage to guide me through the lot and the visitor parking area to reception.
• The kaizen award parking stall designation near the front door.
• The absence of designated parking by position or status in the organization.
• A friendly greeting by reception, a smile that indicates they enjoy being part of the team and a wait time commitment that reflects respect for me and my time.
• A simple mission, vision and values statement that aligns with posted community involvement and engagement initiatives.
• Transfer of that mission and vision to a posted true north dashboard once inside.
• Communication boards that are current and relevant.
• Team engagement and recognition, photos of team members and success delivered by CI teams.
• Visual display boards at work centers highlighting what takes priority today.
• Work centers arranged to optimize flow.
• Visual indicators for wayfinding, process flow, inventory control and WIP management.
• Stoplight controls for problem awareness and designation of ownership and accountability (who is doing what by when)
• Standard work procedures that are posted.
• Cross training, demonstrated skills and abilities matrix by station.
• Takt time, cycle time and deviation correction indications.
• 5Y problem solving and CI initiatives by workstation.
• A lack of cupboards, drawers and closets to “hide” clutter.
• Batch size and material movement methods.
• An indication that equipment is cleaned and inspected regularly.
• A workforce that is engaged and enthused about their work and the organization. A work team that talks about what they are doing to improve

As I dig deeper into the organization with the leadership, we’ll discuss their metrics, how they are becoming a learning organization and the initiatives underway to build and maintain the culture they envision. We’ll discuss their vision for the future, the coming months and how they are transforming that vision to an action plan for strategic deployment.

In a lean enterprise, I rarely hear “it won’t work here” or “I’ve been meaning to try that”. It seems that excuses get replaced by actions in the world of lean. And that energy is contagious!


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