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Jon Miller

Jon Miller: No Time for Kaizen? Check Your Assumptions

By Jon Miller, - Last updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

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?”

 

In 20 years of trying I have yet to encounter a business which perfectly balanced supply and demand, inputs with outputs, intention with effort. When any of these things are out of balance, there is room for improvement. The question of “How do we make time for improvement?” is a common one. It is the wrong question. All of us already have time for improvement. The real question is “What are the false assumptions which make us believe we have no time for improvement?”

The person asking the question below was kind enough to share some of his background assumptions.

“As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career,”

Let’s stop here. If you have a grasp and have experienced lean, you will know that improvement is a non-negotiable part of everyone’s job. Granted there are many and varied definitions of lean, so we cannot assume that what the questioner experienced was lean which includes total engagement and daily management.

” but now that I’m CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work.”

A CEO sets priorities based on your best understanding of market trends, the customer, the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, etc. The CEO is not there to make sure everyone is happy with their day-to-day. You delegate and check on that. The CEO does not ask people to make time for improvement. The CEO sets a vision. The people convert the vision into aligned improvement activities and targets. The CEO helps people to deselect and prioritize their energy between daily work, various projects and improvement activities.

“They’re already completely busy doing their regular work.”

Busy does not equal productive. Regular work does not equal value-added work. Completely busy usually means frustrated and ready for an open-minded external view on how improve the process.

“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.”

Kaizen does not need to be done on personal time. It is a work activity aimed at making work easier, safer, faster, better and cheaper to do. Unless people use work time to go climbing, backpacking, canoeing, etc. this should not be a problem. If people love working at the company because of the lifestyle it affords, ask them to help keep the doors open by finding ways to reduce accidents, errors, duplication, frustrations, etc. If they do have the luxury of going hiking during work hours, ask them to think while they climb. Exercise is good for the brain.

“Any advice?”

The time to do kaizen is staring you in the face. Check you assumptions.

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