Volume 1 / Issue 4 / May 9, 2016
“The past is your lesson.The present your gift. The future your motivation.” Unknown
Many succumb to the non-thinking sound bite, “Never Look Back!” but manufacturers cannot afford to ignore the past because, as so many have pointed out, "ignoring the past dooms you to repeat it." Steve Jobs had it right when he stated, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
Over the next few issues, ATJ will draw on observations from the last two decades until your editor establishes his new home near his family in BC by August 1st. ATJ believes strongly in the philosophy of looking back but only to see how far you have come and what you have learned. But stay positive. If looking back shows no progress, use this fact to energize your thinking and efforts for the future. And if, upon looking back, you swell with pride, use this to feed your innovation engine to accelerate the trajectory ahead.
This issue, taken from the AFEE Manufacturing Consortium’s Weekly Update over 11 years ago, presents an excellent checklist of 7 Skills to strive for to enable you to create a Lean Enterprise. It can be used as a starting point if you have not seen it before or, if you have and have fallen short, this may be helpful to connecting the right dots that will spell out your future.… And now to THE TAKE!
Seven skills people need to create a Lean enterprise
Lean! Lean! Lean! They’re chanting it in corporate boardrooms around the globe. Lean manufacturers, lean enterprises, lean supply chains and lean extended value streams are in various stages of construction by companies looking for competitive advantages in tough markets. Yet, the reality is that only a few companies have achieved any significant measure of leanness.
Why are companies struggling to get lean? Is it lack of top management commitment? I don’t think so. CEOs, CFOs, company presidents, and the entire executive staff are all on board. The top guys want all the bottom-line savings and increased flexibility that lean promises. Is it a lack of computer systems that support lean? Not at all. Lean doesn’t take a computer. It’s a set of tools, or more like a toolbox full of tools and techniques. You select the right technique or method to improve what needs improving. There is no technological marvel to instantly make you lean. Is it the people who work in these would-be lean companies? Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter.
Companies are not brands that customers recognize, though a strong brand is important to a company. Companies are not the products that they sell, though the right product offered to the right market at the right price is critical to companies’ success. Companies are not the buildings they’re housed in, the web site that represents them in cyberspace, the computers that house their data, or the processes by which things get done. Companies are a collection of people voluntarily banding together to produce a product or service. In order to have a lean enterprise, you have to have lean people. And the people have to get lean before the company can get lean. Lean people make a lean enterprise!
What makes lean people? The convergence of three spheres: experience, knowledge, and skill. Specifically, people need experience in the business or industry, knowledge of the tools and techniques of lean thinking, and the soft skills that allow them to put that experience and knowledge to work. People have sufficient experience to support lean initiatives when they have thorough knowledge of the industry in which they work and the function they perform. There is only one problem with these tenets and tools —they have to be applied by people. These are the same people who are doing things the old way today, the same people who have been doing things the old way for a long time, the same people who have a vested interest in doing things the way they have always been done. This is the biggest challenge in getting lean. You have to get the experts at doing things the old way to do things in a new way. Anyone who has tried to implement change in any organization knows that getting the people to change is the biggest problem.
Back to my main theme —in order to have a lean enterprise, you have to have lean people. There are seven skills that make people lean. These are prerequisites to effectively applying lean enterprise tenets and tools. The skills are:
Customer consciousness Skill1
Enterprise thinking Skill2
Taking initiative Skill4
Because a company is only as good as its people, these lean people skills are the prerequisites for creating a lean enterprise. Like the tools of lean enterprise, some of these skills are not new in themselves, but they do take on much greater importance for the people of a lean enterprise. We have paid lip service in the past to things like customer responsiveness and teaming. It is time to take them seriously. These lean people Skills should be viewed as a set. Everyone working in a Lean enterprise requires them all. A weakness in any skill is the proverbial weak link. It is a flaw that must be corrected. Let’s take a look at each of the lean people Skills.
Source: AFEE Manufacturing Consortium Weekly Update, October 10, 2005