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Month: June 2016

THE LEAN SCATTER GUN - IMPROVEMENT FOR THE SAKE OF IT

THE LEAN SCATTER GUN – IMPROVEMENT FOR THE SAKE OF IT

In today’s world, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it is an expectation that an organisation must improve in all areas of its business. That customers and stakeholders are looking to see improvements in all areas of the operation.

So that’s what lots of organisations do. But should they be doing this?  After all, improvement is good right?

Well, the issue is that you can only do so much at any given time no matter how good or flexible you think your business is, and if you’re improving things that are already OK, then you might not be improving the things you need to.

Wide scale CI vs Internal CI Champions – here’s where the problem lies.  Until you have an organisation that doesn’t need “internal CI Champions” (one where the operational management structure is sufficiently indoctrinated to change and improvement), then CI champions will tend to work on their own projects and suffer the following:

  • They sit outside of Operations Management
  • They have the goal of savings – often these don’t align with Operations Management Targets
  • Savings, savings, savings – cost reduction, not $ creation
  • Their requests to Operations Management are an additional burden – they don’t get supported.
  • Their language is strange, it’s vaguely familiar with that lean course the managers went on a while ago

I’ve termed it  “Push System CI”  and to but it bluntly, it doesn’t work

OK, so some cost savings are recorded from the CI projects – big deal.  Putting someone with an educated brain on a focus improvement project has always done that, even before it was called lean or CI.  I feel for the Internal CI Champions – often frustrated, not really listened to, and no real levers to make big lasting changes to the business.  Don’t get me wrong, Lean and CI Champions are a good thing, they just need to be better utilised in a strategic manner.

To do this, you need   “Pull System Improvement”

OK, there’s no C for Continuous in there, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves – walk before you run – improve before developing a deeply engrained culture of improving everything you see.  Seems logical to me.  Like I would try and get my teenage son to tidy his bedroom once per week, before hoping blindly that he’ll love to tidy everything as he goes because I’ve appointed myself as an “internal cleaning champion”

So what do I mean by a Pull System?

The objectives and goals of a business should PULL through the required improvement activity.  The improvement initiatives must:

  • Align with business goals
  • Combine with other initiatives to guarantee the attainment of the business goals

To ensure success, the improvement targets must be cascaded through Operations Management – the CI Champions will now have their attention.  The CI Champion becomes a critical support person, not another distraction from business as usual

What to do:

  • Start with a technique called Hoshin Kanri and stick to it’s principles. Set 6 and no more than 10 top level business operations objectives (SMART), that will lead to the attainment of 3 year objectives and beyond.
  • Establish what improvement initiatives are required to deliver on the objectives, and no more. Any initiatives that do not support the attainment of the set objectives must be removed.
  • Sort the agreed initiatives by categorising into work streams – Assign Leaders
  • Cascade KPI’s and targets to operations management
  • Devise a CI support plan and allocate CI resources accordingly
  • Operations Management report back on improvement results and take ownership.

Put away the ‘Lean scatter gun’ and stop improving things for the sake of it. Think strategically. Focus your efforts on the real parts of the business that need improvement and start maximising your gains.

If your organisation requires strategic improvement then contact us.  It’s what we do.

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