The obvious
Quick and simple is not always sustainable, that’s the hard bit. However, on occasion there may be a sudden need to increase performance in a “step” manner. For example, there may be a sudden peak demand on a business that is beyond output capacity. There will always be extra potential in any process, and putting a clear business need for improvement around it may provide an opportunity to create a new benchmark.

The Method (the “what”)
“Measure it, and it will improve” is the baseline concept with truth in it. From our years of experience across many industry sectors, by putting in a performance measure as a starting point, there will be an improvement in results, 20% just happens to be a common outcome. The key is to make the measure simple to understand and relevant to the specific process.

The “how”
Getting people to work harder is definitely NOT the request or approach. Nor is cutting corners with safety and quality. There is however a common human element of focusing in more when things are deemed important. As we focus, wasteful distractions reduce, and we “get the job done”. In terms of the specific Lean approach, it’s the beautifully simple concept of removing waste, but, consider a specific emphasis on motion and waiting. The important ingredient we’re adding here is the measure. If done correctly, adding the measure gives the message that it’s important. People on the process will begin to realise that the new important target is only attainable if they didn’t have to wait for this, and walk to fetch that, and so on.

Some simple steps to follow are:
1) Tell people why
“Call to action” appears to be the latest term doing the rounds. A basic principle it appears to support is that people will generally rally behind a cause if it is clear and generates a sense of urgency.

2) Be a leader
You don’t need to be the most inspirational leader on earth, just make sure the message is clear and that it means something real. Get the team together, explain the business need to improve, do it in a positive way, and ask for their input and support. CEO’s – use this as an opportunity to connect with the teams!

3) Commit to some basics
People fear change, not a headline concept I know. However, the reality remains that most people will know at least one person that has lost their job as a result of change. So what happens if they improve output by 20%? Think this through carefully, decide what the positive outcome will be and stick to it.

4) Lead by example
Get out of the office, look at the results and talk to the workforce in and around the processes – make it clear it’s important. Recognise people’s input and breakthroughs. Small actions go a long way in improving performance.

5) Sustain
Maintaining performance is the hard bit from an organisational and human perspective. However, the sequence and tools bit is fairly straight forward (yet often not followed).

The chances are that there is a significant amount of variation in the work process – for example in the form of output or quality. Variation is the main “Killer” of quality and efficiency. In my experience, the causes of this variation will fall into two buckets:

1) Genuine problems
2) Sloppy practices/behaviours

The initial problem though is that these issues tend to be a murky mixture in one bucket. Sloppy practices/behaviours “hide” behind the genuine problems.

Here’s the thing – fix the genuine problems and the sloppy practices and behaviours have nowhere to hide. In my experience, many of them will stop of their own accord. Complex human issues and performance management can be avoided.

Here is the basic sequence to follow:


In Summary: We firmly believe that it is possible to achieve a quick and simple 20% performance lift by doing the simple things well.
Measure: Follow steps 1 to 5
Control: Prioritise the genuine problems. Fix some easy things, and then apply Root Cause analysis to complex problems
Improve: A good foundation now exists to effectively deploy CI/Kaizen tools and approaches

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us


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