Guest Post: What Makes a Successful Lean Environment?

Mark’s note: Today’s post is from a relatively new friend of my blog, introduced initially through our mutual friend, Jamie Flinchbaugh. Ankit Patel, today’s guest blogger, also shares with me former employment at Dell Computer Inc. I worked there so long ago, the name still had “Computer” in it. Ankit, more recently.

Anyway… back to Ankit. He is now founder of The Lean Way Consulting, and he blogs and tweets, as well. wrote a guest post for me last December, which you can find here.

In today’s post, Ankit talks about Lean transformation efforts and communication styles. Here you go:

What Makes a Successful Lean Environment?

Of the companies that are doing Lean 89% consider themselves Lean yet less than 33% have mature lean deployments (2006, The Lean Benchmark Report,  AberdeenGroup).  Why is it so difficult to make a Lean Transformation stick?  From my experience it comes down to culture.  Saying it’s just the culture is actually a  cop-out and there are several factors of culture including:

  • Communication style
  • Problem solving
  • Training
  • Relationship between peers
  • Relationship between  managers  and direct reports
  • Willingness of the organization

For the sake of brevity, I’d like to cover communication style and relationship between managers and direct reports.

Communication style: This is how you communicate.  Are you a direct communicator?  Do you bark commands?  Are you a  Socratic  leader?  Do you ask lots of questions and have very few  declarative statements?  Are you somewhere in between?  The majority of people  I’ve  worked with have fallen into the more direct communicators that don’t ask any questions and just give orders.  If an employee (John) comes to you(Jane) saying they forgot to enter in an item to charge and have been undercharging customers by 30% for the past week; how would you handle the situation?  The companies that I’ve worked with that are most  successful  handle it something like this:

John: Jane I’ve just noticed on the reports that I’ve been charging 30% less to each customer

Jane: How did that happen?

John: Every client has been getting our  premium  upgrade this week because of promotions we are running but I haven’t been charging them

Jane: How do we correct this issue moving forward?

John: I don’t know if it’s worth the trouble since we are not running the promotion next week

Jane: That is true but what if we run the promotion again?  Or what if we get someone who buys the premium upgrade on their own?

John: Ok I can see your point.  It seems like I just need the invoice to be clearly labeled.  The current invoices that I  receive  have the premium upgrade listed in a  different  spot and I don’t check that part of the invoice.

Jane: How can that be  resolved?

John: If we just move the place where  they  record the premium upgrade on the invoice, it should fix the problem.

Jane: Sounds great when can that be put in place?

John: I’ll talk to the people writing the invoices now and we should be able to have it fixed by the end of the day.

This is a real example and the names where changed but the flow of conversation was the same.  Here is a more direct and less effective way of communicating:

John: Jane I’ve just noticed on the reports that I’ve been charging 30% less to each customer

Jane: How could you make that kind of mistake!   I showed you how to do that task in your training.

John: I’m sorry it was a mistake.

Jane: This is what you are going to do.   You are going on a performance review, then you are going to fix this issue by learning how to read the invoice.

John: Ok

How do you think John feels after the second type of conversation?   Do you think he feels respected?

Relationship between managers and direct reports: Similar to communication, it’s about respect.   If managers and direct reports don’t respect each other then you get into sticky situations where employees feel as though they are being mistreated and management feels as though they can’t find any good help.   Every interaction is important when developing a relationship.   If you are a manager do you ask how your direct reports are dong from time to time?   Do you genuinely care about them?   Are you showing you genuinely care?   As a direct report are you being responsible with your new found freedom to experiment in a Lean environment?   Are you constantly improving and developing a back and forth with your manager?   Do you genuinely care about your manager and peers?

Regardless of the cultural element you focus on there is a linkage with all of them.   Emotional intelligence of the organization has a great deal to do with the success of a Lean transformation.   Emotional intelligence is defined by four factors:

  1. Ability to perceive emotions
  2. Ability to use emotions
  3. Ability to understand emotions
  4. Ability to manage emotions

Emotional intelligence is measured by EQ (emotional quotient) and it is not a measure of how “touchy feely” you are but how well you play with others and can communicate the right things in the right situations.   From studies and actual experience;  for every 1% increase in company EQ score we see a 2% increase to the bottom line.   The good news is that you can improve your companies EQ so if your organization is willing to change there is help.   Culture is the most important part of a Lean transformation so be sure to focus on culture before going head first into all the tools.

About Ankit Patel (full bio):

Prior to starting The Lean Way Consulting Ankit was a Lean consultant for Dell Inc. overseeing Dell’s Manufacturing, and Re-Manufacturing production processes in  Lebanon  TN.  Ankit helped guide the multi billion dollar plant in strategic planning,  coaching  executives at the plant, facilitating Kaizen events, and training Lean leaders at all levels of the organization.  Ankit is no stranger to the board room or the shop floor and has run several strategic  initiatives  as well as 100’s of Kaizen events

Ankit has also had several years of small business ownership.   His experience to change and grow companies ranges from small businesses to multinational fortune 50 companies.

Ankit has an Industrial Engineering Degree from Georgia Tech and lives in the Nashville TN area.


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The Lean Way Consulting is led by Managing Partner, Ankit (ahn-kit) Patel. Ankit’s personal vision is to help people, organizations and communities flourish by using the proven thinking and methodology associated with Lean Transformations. With his primary focus on companies between $1 million and $100 million in revenue, Ankit has worked with companies in a wide spectrum of industries from high tech to healthcare.

1 Comment on "Guest Post: What Makes a Successful Lean Environment?"

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  1. HADIT says:

    hi, my name is hadit, im working on my final proyect at the university, i need some information about companies who worked in lean enviroment and their results. i hope you answer soon…

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