Building a Lean Culture.
What is the real objective of Lean Six Sigma? When I ask this question, I usually get responses such as increased quality, improved speed, reduced cost, reduced errors and many other tactical improvement measures. Those are all benefits to continuous improvement (CI). The real goal of CI is to build a culture or improve a culture. As Dr. Womack wrote in Lean Thinking, the fifth principle of lean is culture.
So what does it mean to build a culture or to enhance the culture? How does a world-class culture behave? A world-class culture has an engrained tendency to seek out, identify and drive improvements at all levels of the organization. It moves from a culture where lean and Six Sigma are something to be done (like a project) to a place where Lean Six Sigma is simply the way things are done.
As you are engaging your CI plan, ask yourself what your culture is like. Are you doing CI or is CI simply the way things are done? This shouldn’t be hard to figure out, so don't spend a lot of time dwelling on it. Either you are or you aren't. Either answer is OK. Just recognize where you are and where you are trying to go.
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How to make the customer feel appreciated.
I had occasion to go to the doctor’s office recently. It was for a basic checkup, and since I am a Lean guy to my bones, I want to focus on the visit from my perspective — the customer. My appointment was for 10 a.m., and I arrived there promptly at about five minutes until 10. I signed the sign-in sheet, found a magazine and started reading. At about 10:25 (25 minutes after my appointment time), I was called back to the exam area, where the nurse told me to go in and wait. I then sat in the smaller waiting room for about 15 more minutes before the nurse came in to examine me. This was not the real exam; this was merely a preliminary exam. She took my weight and blood pressure and asked me if I had been feeling sick or otherwise had any concerns. This process of her visit with me took her about five minutes. So on the time scale, I had been in the office for 45 minutes and had human interaction for about five of those minutes.
As the nurse left, she told me to get comfortable, and the doctor would be right in. I turned on the TV in the room and was watching a cooking channel. I sat there for another 30 minutes before the doctor casually breezed in. She didn’t apologize for my wait, nor did she greet me other than to ask, “And how are you today?” The doctor then went through her normal routine of checking a few things on me that amounted to about five more minutes of interaction. She then asked me if I had any questions, and I did not, so she left the room after scribbling some notes in my folder.
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Communicate for Transitions
A few years ago, I came to the realization that I needed to improve my engagement with team members and colleagues. One of the things I decided to change was to push myself deeper into the details of the multitude of ongoing projects. I realized there was so much going on that I was having trouble providing enough attention to the details involved in each project. I was only brought in and sought after if there was a problem or a tough decision needed to be made.
As this little epiphany came into light, I realized that this was not good for me or my team members. So, I set about making it one of my priorities to work on from that point forward (in the name of my own continuous improvement).
However, it also occurred to me at the same time that a change of my level of attention could cause the organization to take a step back and feel a little nervous about what I was doing and why I was doing it. As I pondered this notion, I decided to seek out some advice. I reached out to one of my mentors and explained to him the dilemma that I was facing and asked for his counsel in how I should proceed.
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Change Management in Hospital Transitions, Part 1.
Relocating hospital operations from one facility to another is a highly complex endeavor that requires years of planning, especially when it comes to managing the change for employees and patients. This blog series addresses the serious challenges hospitals face during a hospital transition .
Without change management practices, hidden issues can plague medical facility transitions, including:
- Clinical errors
- Reduced quality of care
- Employee stress and burnout
- Job dissatisfaction and increased attrition
- Resistance to change
- Communication problems
- Role confusion
- Workflow issues (current and future)
Hospital Transition Staff can mitigate known and unforeseen problems by initiating proactive change management activities:
- Initiate change management activities two years before facility completion
- Manage employee stress levels
- Communicate early and often with employees
- Engage actively with patients, vets, and other stakeholders
- Begin redesigning hospital workflow before the physical move
- Provide awareness orientations and workflow training
- Plan and train for move day activities (“dry runs”
Building Brick Walls - Lean Resistance
All successful and sustainable implementations of Lean start with an organization’s top management. Trying to implement Lean from the middle-out or the bottom-up may result in some improvements, but it will not result in your organization becoming a world-class company that is globally competitive.
In the book Leading Change by John Kotter, the author notes the change implementation prerequisites (for a lean implementation) that management must accomplish as:
n Creating a sense of change urgency
n Developing a guiding coalition/alliance to steer the organization through the change
n Developing a vision/picture of the company’s future state and a strategy to achieve it
n Communicating the vision and strategy to the entire workforce
n Empowering all associates/employees
Organizations inadvertently create brick walls to change, disguised as supervisors and middle managers, if any of the following topics are not covered or communicated clearly during these prerequisite activities:
n Associate/employee empowerment. How will the supervisors and managers jobs be affected? Will they have jobs?
n One of the four components of a Lean Implementation is the development of a Lean Culture to support the Lean Implementation. Have we planned for this?
n Have we linked our people measures (performance evaluations, promotion criteria, merit increases and bonuses) to the Lean Culture and the Lean Implementation Vision so we do not send mixed messages with regard to what is important.
It is important to remember that resistance to change is often the result of a lack of clearly communicated vision and strategy.
Now let’s look at each of the three brick wall building activities:
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The September 30, 2011 edition of Manufacturing and Technology News magazine presented an article entitled, Lean and Six Sigma Are Not Leading To Breakthroughs In Corporate Performance. This article (the result of a survey of 100 business executives conducted by Alix Partners, a business consulting firm) highlighted some problems with Lean and Six Sigma implementations, including:
n 70% of respondents reported a less than 5% improvement in manufacturing costs as a result of Lean.
n 60% of respondents said their previous Lean improvements were not sustainable.
n Only 17% of respondents reported seeking long-term culture change in their organization.
Alix Partners made observations about the survey that are summarized here:
n Most companies are getting a poor return on their investment in Lean and Six Sigma.
n Companies are far too focused on implementing Lean tools and processes rather than on basic execution.
n Organizations need to dramatically rethink their Lean strategies by focusing on cash and finding the biggest opportunity to improve, and then deciding which Lean tool(s) will help them achieve that result.
n Company Leadership Teams must take responsibility for the Lean implementation, rather than trying to push this responsibility down to the Lean facilitator.
This data supported a report completed by Industry Week magazine in 2007 that reported the following Lean results from American business:
In the book, Leading Change, noted organizational change expert John Kotter notes that there are five prerequisites required to achieve any type of organizational change:
n Establishing a Sense of Urgency - Individuals or organizations do not change without a sense of urgency to do so.
n Creating the Guiding Coalition - Put together a group with enough power to lead and guide the organization through the change. This group should represent a cross-section of the organization.
n Developing a Vision and Strategy
n A vision is a broad description or picture of the future state of the organization. Create a vision to help direct the change effort (this is completed in Policy Deployment).
n Developing strategies for achieving that vision that include both marketing and operational activities (this is completed in Policy Deployment).
n Communicating the Change Vision
n Use every verbal and visual vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies (this is completed in Policy Deployment, Step 7 enabler projects).
n Empowering all associates (developed in Lean Culture)
n Get rid of obstacles that prevent associates from participating.
Change systems or structures that prevent associates from creating the change vision. Encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.
Experience has shown that adopting Lean requires, right from the beginning, a strong "sense of urgency" and commitment from the Leadership Team to the organizational change required to successfully implement Lean. This commitment to change must include the area where generally the greatest change must occur--the Leadership Team.
For more by Larry, see his blog.