Successful Implementation of Lean
Audie M Penn, LGC, LSC, LBC, is a member of the Lean Certification Alliance Oversight and Appeals Committee. He is principal of Audie Penn Consulting, a firm specializing in the deployment of Operational Excellence. His focus is executing Strategy Deployment and training executives and local plant staff to execute process improvements and achieve targeted results.
Process improvement, what we refer to as the performance system, is often the sole focus of operational excellence. I believe the high percentage of failures in implementation is due to this limited focus. In our last blog, we introduced the four-system thinking and how it impacts many facets of operations. In this installment, I want to explore the relationship of the other three systems, strategy, management, and leadership systems and why that failure rate is the result of these missing elements.
When the performance system is the only focus of our efforts, our efforts can be misaligned or disconnected to the higher-level objectives. Suboptimizing processes, focusing on the local process only, is common when we reward individual performance without concern for the overarching organizational goals.
The strategy system is where the necessary clarity of organizational objectives is created. The failure most often experienced with the strategy system is the failure to create a condition of readiness. We have not created readiness when we have only defined goals. We must go through the process of checking for understanding and seeking agreement in all areas of the organization. This is what the strategy system is meant to achieve and what many organizations assume they have accomplished. The failure mode in this case is an incomplete process.
When done well, this clarity feeds the management system in many ways. Accountability cannot be effectively achieved in the absence of these agreements. Appropriate focus by our process owners cannot be defined without this clarity, and individual and team development cannot be effective with clearly defined outcomes. All the requirements made clear by the strategy system allow the management system process to be completed effectively. With clarity and focus now on the organizational objectives and the impact of the relationships of every process to those objectives understood, our process improvement efforts will be much more aligned and not suboptimized.
These three systems, strategy, management, and performance are focused on the functional processes of our work. Every organization has a functional presence, the means to produce value for the customers. The better we can define and evaluate our processes against this value the more confident we can be that our efforts for improvement are helpful. That leaves the fourth system for last.
The Leadership system is about relational processes. These processes can be intentionally improved, too. The connection to the effectiveness of Operational Excellence comes from the influence our leaders have on the participation of our teams. Outcomes that are forced or coerced by are temporary and inadequate at best. Solutions that have no team member ownership have no team member participation. These inadequate solutions contribute to the failure rates we hear about in Operational Excellence and Lean initiatives. The importance of all four systems working together cannot be over emphasized. Understanding the purpose of each system and how each system is connected to the others helps us to understand the failure rates that frustrate so many organizations.
Strategy clarifies and creates an organization ready to execute, management focuses teams on these important outcomes and develops individuals and teams to conduct the tasks well. Leadership inspires teams to pursue and own the outcomes that create the benefits for both customers and team members, and the changes our processes need to achieve these outcomes take place in the performance system.
By connecting these systems to one another, the efforts required to achieve excellence are reduced and the outcomes of our efforts are much more effective. Making your way to the winners’ circle is not a matter of doing more of the same, it is a matter of completing the deployment you have started. What most are doing is not incorrect, it is simply incomplete. By intentionally pursuing all four systems, you can complete your Operational Excellence program, too. I invite you to end your frustration and achieve your vision now. It is time to finish what you have started.
Read the first two installments in the series on Operational Excellence and Lean initiatives, Why Lean Doesn’t Work and Reach New Levels with Lean.