“We are Lean…”
Many a time, I speak with prospective client organisations who, up front, declare that they are Lean. But are they?
Sometimes… not always so!
When one digs deeper into some self-proclaimed Lean organisations, it is not surprising to identify a substantial gap in what the prospective client declares, and what a Lean thinker might actually be aspiring for.
At this stage I must directly warn my readers that going Lean is not always a straightforward relationship.
The title selected for the previous article in this series was specifically referring to key words such as adapt, evolve, and building your team, all denoting the need for organisations to move forward, to change, and to do things differently.
That is, challenging the status quo.
To do this successfully, organisations need to focus on creating a well-designed plan of action. This plan needs to be backed by a well-defined methodology that will lead us on to affecting the intended changes. Changes that will seek to optimise our operations. The ultimate objective being to benefit from improved efficiency, increased effectiveness, and bringing on a result of greater productivity within our value-generating processes.
As a person who generally gets involved in supporting client organisations at undergoing such change(s), the transformation leadership team’s ultimate objective should ideally be to focused on achieving a ‘Leaner’ setup.
When I hear out business owners declaring that their organisation is Lean, I generally delve slightly deeper to attempt to better understand what they really mean. Many a time do I actually discover, eventually, that what they really were alluding to one or more of the below misinterpretations!
The following, perhaps, are a few of the delusions I uncover through deeper probing:
This is not what we should really mean when we speak about a lean setup!
In reality, a lean organisation is one that takes on a process-oriented perspective of its core value-generating activities. An organisational mindset that focuses on its people, their capability and skill development, and their well-defined role – yet maintaining the right level of enthusiasm for flexibility and cross functionality.
A lean organisation is one that identifies its roadblocks: all matters that create disruption in the flow of the value stream. One that provides a structure that actually opens doors to relevant initiatives to do something (innovate?) to reduce, if not eliminate, such roadblocks along its core processes.
A lean organisation is one that is more adaptable to changes, at a level of maturity that makes it ready to evolve in anticipation of its internal and/or external environment and influences.
Some first steps to consider
To get one on the right track towards a successful Lean transformation, it may be good to home in on some key points that need to be considered.
Vertical vs horizontal perspective of an organisation
Let us break the vertical (‘silo’) approach to management by looking through our organisation from a horizontal perspective. This shall take a view of the organisation that looks along the flow of the value stream. Think of the appointment of a role, call it the Business Process Owner, whose prime objective is to champion the flow aspect of the core processes. This role should be empowered to internally lead the movement of the process across the various departments, units or divisions (expertise silos!) normally associated with vertically-oriented organisational structures.
Once we understand our core value streams, then we can proceed with an approach for sensible process analysis: learning the hotspots and points of contention. To identify the weaknesses and detect those opportunities that are on offer, and which will make the process somewhat better.
After we have diagnosed our existing processes, and identified critical weaknesses, we are then in position to outline the relevant changes necessary.
Next comes the redesign of our future state. In other words, our transformed organisation, based on Lean – and perhaps digital – best practices.
A first in instigating a Lean change blueprint is to identify the level of ‘horizontalness’ that we can bring into our business activities. Breaking through the vertical silos and focusing on cross-departmental flow of material, data, and resources.
Ing. Joseph Micallef is a freelance Consulting Advisor, bringing with him over 30 years’ worth of experience across various sectors. Working in areas related with quality, lean, business process transformation and project execution and programme management he can be contacted directly on m +356 9982 2244 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org
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