Guest Post: What I’ve Learned from Lean
Again, I’m going to be pretty much away from the blog through October 11. Today’s “blog holiday” guest post is by Christina Kach. Check out her own blog at www.CatchCareers.com.
By Christina Kach
I was first introduced to Lean and Six Sigma as an intern in 2006. It was fascinating work and I wanted to learn more; I was hooked. In the six years since I’ve spent hours reading, studying, practicing, implementing, and teaching it. This is one of my favorite aspects of Lean; there is always something new to learn and explore. Blogs, books, networking, and conferences all provide continued Lean development. Upon reflection, I may have spent hours learning about Lean principles and implementing them in my work, but Lean has also taught me a few lessons in return.
Patience: I know and I understand the goals of Lean methodology. This doesn’t mean everyone does. If I’m impatient or demeaning when explaining the concepts, that won’t bring me, my coworkers, or the company any closer to positive Lean achievement.
Perfection: We live in a perfectionist society. It is unrealistic, as Lean teaches us, to expect perfection right away. Over the years, as I’ve worked on projects, I’ve learned that by not aiming for perfect that doesn’t mean I’m lazy, or not trying my hardest. I am working a solution to the best of my skills and information at hand. If it doesn’t work, we continue to improve and adjust. Even if it does work, we continue to improve and adjust.
Glamour (of lack thereof): You may envision standing on a stage receiving an award for the successful project you executed. And while that may happen as a result of your hard work, that hard work isn’t glamorous. I’ve made (and then attached) hundreds of labels and signs in these six years. As an intern, I literally sat on the floor of a new manufacturing building to figure out the floor taping scheme as part of 5S and WPO. I keep a local cobbler in business fixing the shoes I wear out from walking the manufacturing floor. As with the Iceberg model, the glamour and achievement awards may glisten above the water, but when we look at the hidden underneath, the bulk is the hard work behind the successes. Lean Lesson: don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
Accountability: I’ve still got a lot to learn about holding people accountable. What Lean has taught me however, is that putting someone’s name down next to an action item isn’t nearly enough to get things truly accomplished.
Sharing: I’ve grown up being competitive; on the soccer field, on the track, in the classroom, and in job interviews. In Lean, being competitive may help you personally, but it will hurt the rest of your team and business. Your department may have the best Lean value stream in the facility. But if the other value streams are not working to improve, the system as a whole will fail. Keeping your ideas to yourself will not help the rest of the team learn, grow, or succeed. Share your ideas. Learn from one another. Leverage insights and accomplishments from your peers.
Conflict: Sometimes that idea sharing will lead to conflict. And a little conflict is okay as long as no one starts throwing chairs. It gets ideas flowing. It gets conversion going. It gets people to voice opinions and work through challenges more constructively than everyone just agreeing. Conflict can raise valid concerns that may have gone unnoticed and thus halted the initiative further down the road.
Shadowy Tools: Someone apparently spread the word that Lean = Shadow boards. Shadow boards are a means of tool control. It is an aid to help develop a deeper solution. It is not the solution itself. In my early days of Lean, I thought knowing the tools was all I needed for success in Lean. It is so much more than that. It is working with people, developing a culture, sustainment, and a desire to continue improving. A piece of foam with cutouts is a start in the right direction, but can’t truly deliver deeper success.
Lean is almost never easy. And if it was, we wouldn’t have such a passion for it. As Lean practitioners, we are always continuing to seek out opportunities to expand our Lean knowledge. In return, what has Lean taught us? What new skills and attitudes have we developed as a result of our experiences in the field of Lean? I think you’ll find it brings out the best in us.