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Dave Brunt

Dave Brunt: What are the most difficult industries and activities to introduce lean to and why? In your experience, where have you found lean most difficult to introduce? What specific barriers have you come across? How have you overcome them?

By Dave Brunt, - Last updated: mercredi, juillet 6, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

There is no doubt that there are many challenges that we face when we introduce lean – in fact we can come up with lots of examples in all the Ms – Man/Woman, Method, Machines, Materials, Measurements etc. However the lean community can cite examples that span economic sectors and different countries – varying from exemplar organisations outperforming their industry through to good isolated examples in business units. Given that there are examples across the economy, I wonder if there are some situational issues that make implementation harder in some instances. Here are some thoughts:

Is there a business need? Ohno told us to start where there is a need and of course any industry and activity that doesn’t articulate the need for doing lean will probably fail in the long term. Dan Jones talked about my work with car dealers in his post. Without repeating his words, this sector has been (and remains) difficult. I think one of the main reasons is that leaders in this sector don’t see the need. They are very interested in benchmarking their performance vs their competitors but actually feel that they only compete locally not globally, so have to be slightly better than their competition to be OK.

Is it clear who the customer is? Of course car dealers know exactly who their customers are but there are sectors, businesses and departments that aren’t good at articulating who their customers are. Some don’t realise they have them! So there are difficulties in defining how they create or provide value to them. Both Pascal and Art have highlighted that Government is difficult and I think Government could find it difficult to be clear around customer purpose. In the UK I certainly experienced a lack of acknowledgement about the customer when doing some of the early healthcare experiments and many of us will have done experiments with support departments such as HR or IT who don’t realise that their primary role is to support the people that add value in the organisation.

Do they recognise work as a process? When organisations and people don’t recognise work as a process the obvious reaction is to think “we are different, we can’t implement lean.” This is particularly relevant in organisations and departments that categorise themselves as “knowledge workers.” Often the work is not visible (as is the case for many management activities) so we need ways to make invisible work visible so that we can understand the valuable steps and eliminate waste.

What’s in it for the people who will implement lean or be affected by it? The difficult industries are often those where senior management have not thought through the issues people face as part of implementing lean. For example, when job losses come hand in hand with implementation there are bound to be issues and when senior management don’t think about what they will be able to do with the extra capacity improvements give them sustainability suffers. Implementation is also difficult when there are management worker relations issues. Thinking back to my early work in automotive manufacturing, management spent a great deal of time stabilising the environment and working alongside workers to establish trust. There are still environments (and possibly whole sectors and economies) where the trust between managers and their workforces is holding back improvement potential.

To conclude, situation is indeed important when implementing lean. But to create pioneering examples in any new or difficult environment you need persistence, perseverance and thorough problem solving of purpose, process and people.

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