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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: First aks yourself: “how not to start with lean”, then go find a good sensei

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

The question on “how to start with lean” allows for a wide range of answers
and perspectives, probably most or all of them correct. Without more
background information, I guess a safe answer would be to find a good
sensei. An easier question would have been how not to start with lean.
Perhaps understanding that could be as helpful.
Top places I believe you should never start:
1) learning how to use the “lean tools”. They may all have their benefits
and merits, but once we learn how to use them, we run the risk of using
where they are not needed. How many times have we seen people using Kanban
without even considering the good old way to physically connect processes?
They use the artificial method of Kanban just because they thought it was
good. Instead of learning how to use a tool, we must learn the purpose of
it.
2) Trying implementation before equipping people with core principles. For
example, without a good foundation, the new procedures will not stick.
Standardized work must be understood first. Another example is that lean
(or any transformation for that matter), brings problems that must be
solved. Without good PDCA skills, problems will not be solved, people may
push back new methods. Instead of going straight for results, we must
follow the process.
3) Starting from a support function. Probably all functions have enough
waste to make your efforts worth many times over. However, an
administrative function (say purchasing), will rarely get the sense of
urgency needed to get leaner unless there is a burning platform. The
burning platform is usually in the mainstream functions, where product or
services get their value increased as they get closer to paying customers.
If a machine is down for lack of a spare part, all eyes will be on that
process to bring it up to speed as soon as possible. Specially because now
you don’t have piles of inventory to make up for breakdowns. If purchasing
can avoid that from ever happening again (by better sourcing, for example),
then it is a good time to get into this support function. Otherwise the
pushback from support functions is too strong.

Good luck,

Sammy

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