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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: How to Measure Lean Success

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Saturday, May 28, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Question: How would you define lean success?

Manufacturers have made many improvements in quality and productivity. There’s no question that our factories are better than they were 20 years ago, and that significant progress toward world-class manufacturing status has been made. But the world doesn’t stand still. A question for me is how organizations can keep improving and adapting – systematically – along unpredictable paths, as a part of what they do every day.

Capability development

So I agree with Jeff Liker that there is no end point to lean success, only transformation leading to continuous improvement toward your vision (which, by the way, humans are well-equipped to do). Improvements are often small and local at first, but as a team’s improvement capability increases, that team can take on larger challenges. And when improvement capability is trained and practiced across an organization, the organization itself can take on more challenges. That, in turn, makes a company more open to challenges, which helps ensure its continued evolution and success.

Measuring capability development

You can actually measure capability development. It’s still somewhat subjective, but the Dreyfus Levels of Skill Acquisition give us a yardstick for measuring a person’s skill level. (Note: you’re measuring skill, not the person.) But to be able to use the Dreyfus Levels you have to know what skills, i.e., what kata, you are trying to teach. In other words, what is your company’s improvement kata?

About the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition (link)

Table of the Dreyfus Levels (link)

Regarding lean success, here are 4 things to measure:

  1. Is progress being made toward an overall (system-level) challenge? Often this challenge can be derived from your future-state value stream map.
  2. How well are your teams doing in achieving their process-level target conditions? Every work process should have a target condition – linked to the overall challenge – that it’s team is striving to achieve. The relevant metric(s) can be taken from the process target condition.
  3. How well are managers doing in developing improvement kata skill in their people? You can assess skill level per person using the Dreyfus Levels.
  4. What is the frequency and duration of coaching cycles conducted by managers with their direct reports? (Longer coaching cycles are not necessarily better.)

Mike

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