Lean Management Goes Wrong
I recently had an assignment on employee engagement training for junior and senior level executives in the 10B dollars organisation. It was more than one workshop as you can imagine, but on all of them, I encountered the very same issue. They recently implemented Lean into their daily routines but, to my surprise, associates did not like it.
The Best With The Least
Lean is all about the best possible outcome with the least possible effort. So what is not to like if one's life becomes easier? After the initial Q&A session I have found that the system itself was good. However, the implementation of the system was lacking one of its core principles:
To briefly explain how the pull works I want you to imagine your nearest supermarket. Space on the shelves is labelled with the particular product and there is a limited amount of product you can fit into that space. When the customers are buying the shelf empties. That is a signal for staff that the product needs replenishing. That is how the whole Lean organisation operates: instead of building the stock, it adjusts the production pace to the market's demand.
How Does The Pull Relates To a Managers' Situation?
Managers and their departments are the business on its own rights, therefore, they also have their customers: CEOs on the one hand and associates on the other. If the CEOs can’t find his or her products on the shelve—the goals and projects aren’t delivered—he will go to a different supermarket. The manager won’t keep the post.
But let’s take a closer look at the associate's pull. It's not only intriguing but can also be very useful.
If the associate can’t find their products on the shelve—the psychological needs of belongingness and inclusion—they will go to a different supermarket. The rotation will increase, the workload will keep building up, and eventually, the manager will not deliver the product to the CEOs shelve and the CEOs will go to a different supermarket. The manager won’t keep the post.
The Associates Are The Crucial Part of Whole Operation
Their needs should be the priority. Every associate knows the ropes and has ideas for improvement. So when the change is being introduced and the internal pull is not taken into account, they feel excluded, diminished, unimportant. It has been forced upon them so they begin to resist.
Lean is supposed to save you the effort and now the management has to wrestle with associates. The effectiveness of the whole idea goes dramatically down. This is what happens when you reduce a philosophy to a set of tools.
Next time when you receive some directives make sure to involve your whole team in the process. You might have some limitations, of course, and your team might have different views and ideas.
It's your responsibility to facilitate the process of the change. You can bring out the employee motivation and this is an opportunity not to be missed.