Outlined below are my top 10 reasons for lean implementation failure and a few pointers to help you navigate your way through the problems:
- Lack of Alignment: The people within your organisation need to be aligned with your strategic vision. You are possibly treating lean as a low level set of tools for the shop floor. You need to create a clear Vision, understand your place in the market and align the hearts and minds of the business with your true north. Align your people with your strategic direction and utilise lean as an approach to continuously improving your performance.
- You are Not Aware of Your Company Values: A high performing team is built on a foundation of strong values. Build your team around a shared set of Values. Values drive our beliefs and behaviour. People who believe the same things overcome adversity and achieve more together.
- Your Team Are Not Competent: If you have people on your team who are under performing or incompetent, deal with it! Get the right people on the bus in the right seats that are competent. Either invest in the people you’ve got or change them. If management are not competent they will not buy into the whole improvement program. If you’re a high growth business, there may be people on your team that have peaked early and cannot keep up with the roles they are in.
- You Don’t Co-create Plans with Your Team: Setting plans in a darkened room without involving the people who will be implementing the plan is a big mistake. Your plans are probably far too informal and people don’t truly understand what is required. Involve people in decision making and allow them to be masters of their own destiny. People will own and take responsibility for what they create if you involve them. Have you ever heard an employee say, “we communicate too much here?”
- You Lack Discipline: You will only achieve excellence with a culture built around discipline. You cannot maintain good standards without discipline. Self-discipline and team discipline are both important factors if you want to be successful. Lead by example and be clear on the expected standards you have of others.
- You Don’t Speak with Data: Move away from opinion based decision making and speak with data. Make data as visual as possible for all to see. It will help them to make the right decisions. Ask your people to evidence their opinions and decision making. Speak with data, speak with data and speak with data.
- There Are No Behavioural Boundaries: Be clear about the behaviours you expect from people and the boundaries. Focus on the current behaviours of people and not on old thinking or past experience. If you are a growing or changing business these boundaries may need to be changed or reset for the new culture.
- You Are Not a Learning Organisation: Be a learning organisation and treat problems as an opportunity to learn. At the core of lean and continuous improvement is learning. Self learning, team learning and organisational learning. Allow people to fail and learn from their experiences. Let go of being the expert and allow people to learn.
- You Don’t Give or Encourage Feedback: Provide your team with feedback and encourage feedback as the norm. Create an open and honest environment where people can trust each other. How can we improve ourselves and our environment without feedback? Feedback should apply to all employees. Tell people if they are doing a good job. Don’t just point out the things they get wrong. Management included.
- People Are Not Reaching their Full Potential: Create an environment where people can reach their full potential. An environment where your team want to progress, learn about themselves and build their knowledge. Develop your people to the best they can be. Look after them and they will look after your customers.
I am sure there are many other reasons as to why lean and continuous improvement plans fail but these are the top 10 reasons that I believe your lean improvement plan is failing.
I would say the underlying theme is; organisations underestimate ‘lean’ as part of their overall strategy and focus on shop floor improvements. When the true philosophy of lean is embraced the whole organisation is engaged in delivering value to your customers and creating competitive advantage. This level of alignment will ensure you survive and thrive in the future.
Hope these ideas help with your own journey. Remember, if it’s not working, change it!
but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin