The Lean Edge: How do you make time for improvements?
As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I’m CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work. They’re already completely busy doing their regular work. Moreover, this company is in the outdoor sports industry, and many people join these companies because they want time to climb, backpack, canoe, etc., and I’m reluctant to ask them to work more hours and sacrifice time for these activities. Any advice?”
When I see this question about time its immediately takes me to countless moments during my sessions when I’m asked this very question repetitively by different levels of leadership. It’s one of my favorite questions to answer and I do so by utilizing a famous quote from the late John Wooden to help explain my personal thoughts – “If you don’t have time to do it right this first time when will you have time to do it over? This ignites my conversation that all companies have the time to do improvements it’s just that they are “choosing” to spend so much of that time doing non-value added activities that have been deemed as the norm. If someone actually documented for one week how many non-value added activities are taking place it would be alarming to any team.
I experienced this myself at Toyota during my production tenure and was able to re-align a team leader and team member as a result of studying a yamazumi chart that placed our activities into various categories (non-value add, value add, and ancillary set up work). It was a great way to differentiate what should be happening (standards) versus what is currently happening and recognize waste in many forms within our daily work. Remember one of the most under-utilized wastes is the development of people. If the workforce isn’t conditioned to see it, waste becomes the norm and that is where your time truly lies. This applies everywhere not just manufacturing, you just have to learn to see it and not accept it as part of the furniture and develop others in this way at the process (gemba) by constantly asking questions.
I think what happens in most companies that lean is defined a certain way or an opinion has been formed because the purpose of it or the improvement hasn’t been fully explained or related to the key performance indicators of the organizations (value add). When this doesn’t happen it usually this falls under the umbrella of an add-on, flavor of month, program, extra work or my personal favorite is – lean= less employees are needed.
The paradigm shift that needs to happen is to uncover what is already there in the form of resources and time. Leaders have to be taught to lead in a way that recognizes those hidden nuggets out there as the conduit to recondition the mindsets of team members at all levels to see lean as developing the people to see find the “coveted time” in the form of wastes. Once small successes are experienced and replicated you can begin to see the shift in the culture that becomes more of a pull system for more knowledge than a push. People will actually ask to be part of the initiative when they see the value. As leaders we must explain value! Pushing improvements (lean thinking) on an individuals at all levels without purpose and value explained creates the perfect recipe for reluctance in people to “take on” something else.
Everyone wants a balance of family and personal time to work time, when the scales become tipped it’s time to pull the andon and ask why this happening is. I can promise you that the time is there you are after, it always has been, and it’s up to you and your team to uncover the treasure! I learned to never say I didn’t have time to a japanese trainer, they could always see waste when we thought we had improved it all.