LEAN requires deliberate and persistent leadership action

Transforming the culture of work, or more correctly the employees incentive to relate to each other and work differently, is a requirement to obtain success in a LEAN enterprise. This requires leadership, as only leaders can make this kind of significant change and support realignment of incentives so that workers in connected work stations are encouraged to work collaboratively and horizontally across the path of workflow. These are the strengths of Toyota's culture- namely:

  • Employees in charge of their own jobs
  • Employees designing standardized work
  • Employees working to continually improve the work, changes made and effectiveness assessed by the customer focused PDCA cycle

Dr. Deming, in his seminal book Out of the Crisis, described his management philosophy that forms the foundation of what we now call LEAN, named after Toyota's successful implementation of their "Lean" or bufferless production system. Of Deming's 14 principles for transformation, the last is the Plan For Action, aimed at management. The 7 points of the leader's action plan prescribed by Deming are worth repeating here verbatim for those entertaining a LEAN cultural transformation.

Plan for Action

Principle #14: Take action to accomplish the transformation.
  • Management in authority will struggle over every one of the above 13 points, the deadly diseases, the obstacles (Chapter 3). They will agree on their meaning and on the direction to take. They will agree to carry out the new philosophy.
  • Management in authority will take pride in their adoption of the new philosophy and in their new responsibilities. They will have courage to break with tradition, even to the point of exile among their peers.
  • Management in authority will explain by seminars and other means to a critical mass of people in the company why change is necessary, and that the change will involve everybody. Enough people in the company must understand the 14 points, the deadly diseases, and the obstacles of Chapter 3. Management is helpless otherwise.

This whole movement may be instituted and carried out by middle management, speaking with one voice.

  • Every activity, every job is a part of a process. A flow diagram of any process will divide the work into stages as a whole form a process. The stages are not individual entities, each running at maximum profit. A flow diagram, simple or complex, is an example of a theory - an idea.

-----> Stage 1 -----> Stage 2 -----> Stage 3 ----->

Work comes into any stage, changes state, and moves on into the next stage. Any stage has a customer, the next stage. The final stage will send product or service to the ultimate customer, he that buys the product or the service. At every stage there will be:

Production -- change of state, input changes to output. Something happens to material or papers that come into any stage. They go out in a different state.

Continual improvement of methods and procedures, aimed at better satisfaction of the customer (user) at the next stage.

Each stage works with the next stage and with the preceding stage toward optimum accommodation, all stages working together toward quality that the ultimate customer will boast about. We recall these words from page 43:

This is what I can do for you.

Here is what you might do for me.

I could do a much better job (fewer mistakes) if I knew what the program is to be used for. The specifications don't tell me what I need to know (programmer).

  • Start as soon as possible to construct with deliberate speed an organization to guide continual improvement of quality, as recommended in Chapter 16. The Stewart cycle (Figure below) will be helpful as a procedure to follow for improvement of any state; also as a procedure for finding a special cause detected by statistical signal (Ch. 11).

Core Improve 1 

The reason to study the results of a change is to try to learn how to improve tomorrow's product, or next year's crop. Planning requires prediction. The results of a change or test may enhance our degree of belief for prediction, for planning.

Step 4 of the Shewhart cycle (study the results; what did we learn from the change?) will lead (a) to improvement of any stage, and (b) to better satisfaction of the customer for that stage. The results may of course indicate no change at all, at least for now.

If the results of the change or test are favorable, we may decide to go through the cycle again, preferably under different environmental conditions, to learn whether the favorable results of the first cycle were spurious or are valid over a range of environmental conditions.<

A loop may now be thrown around three or more stages, to improve everything by study of interaction of changes in one or more stages, again by the Shewhart cycle.

  • Everyone can take part in a team. The aim of a team is to improve the input and the output of any stage. A team may well be composed of people from different staff areas. A team has a customer.

Everyone on a team has a chance to contribute ideas, plans, and figures; but anyone may expect to find some of his best ideas submerged by consensus of the team. He may have a chance on the later time around the cycle. A good team has a social memory.

At successive sessions, people may tear up what they did in the previous session and make a fresh start with clearer ideas. This is a sign of advancement.

  • Embark on construction of organization for quality as described by Fig. 61 on page 467, and in the accompanying test [here Deming shows a schematic plan for organization for quality and productivity, originated by Dr. Morris Hansen in the Bureau of the Census, 1940. An example of this reinforcing structure based on Toyota is shown below].

LEAN Organiza 2 

A group, a team, should have an aim, a job, a goal. A statement thereof must not be specific in detail, else it stifle initiative.

By working in this way, everyone will see what he can do and what only top management can do.

Not so simple is it? Not without good planning, consensus and good leadership. This is why LEAN takes time to develop, mature and show sustained results. Can you afford to wait on the sidelines?