Guest Post: The Secret to Lean is Saying No
Mark's note: Yes, I'm still on vacation. I'm very thankful for my cadre of guest bloggers, including today's guest, Jeff Hajek. Jeff is an active blogger at his site “Gotta Go Lean” and he is the author of the book Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? Building the bridge from job satisfaction to corporate profit, a very practical guide for front-line staff and supervisors.
I hope you enjoy today's guest post from Jeff about things you should say “no” to… here's his post:
The Secret to Lean is Saying No
Lean is about a can-do attitude. It is about optimism. It is about trusting that the PDCA system of problem solving works. It is about having faith that improving flow will yield lowers costs, faster delivery, and higher quality.
The little known secret, though, is that Lean also requires a healthy dose of saying “No” to be effective.
Say No to Excuses: There is always a reason why something will not work. Don't let those reasons become excuses that derail an improvement. Find a way to overcome the obstacles.
Say No to Crutches: Lean can make people nervous because it takes away safety nets. The biggest example is inventory. With ample piles of parts everywhere, there is no urgency to improve processes. As that cushion is reduced, improvement becomes a necessity.
Say No to Projects: One challenge you are unlikely to face in Lean is finding enough projects to do. The hard part is selecting the best things to work on first. When resources are scarce, choosing a higher priority project can mean axing a lower value one.
Say No to Inertia and Complacency: People like to bask in the glory of their success. Unfortunately, your competitors aren't doing that, so you can't take too long to celebrate your victories. Lean requires a relentless pursuit of waste.
Say No to Silence: Change is hard for most people. It is easier when there is a lot of communication. Some people have blinders on when they are making improvements, though, and forget to talk to the people whose lives they are changing. Ask. Listen. Repeat.
Say No to Variation: People like flexibility in how they perform their work. Doing a repetitive job can be boring, so people like to mix things up a little. Unfortunately, that adds quality-busting variation. Focus on keeping processes consistent, but offer other ways to beat boredom. Job rotation, kaizen projects, and training are all alternative ways to battle monotony.
Say No to Barriers and Silos: Think in terms of the value stream. When people focus on functional groups, they drift towards solutions that favor local improvements rather than global optimization. Make sure you know what upstream and downstream customers are doing so changes don't hurt them.
Each of these “No's” injects waste into the continuous improvement process. All this waste consumes scarce resources, making your gains smaller than they could be.
As you continue on your Lean journey, pay special attention to the items on the list above. Look for instances where you should be saying “No” to the things that are holding back progress.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about the items on this list and any others you think should be added to it.
About the author: Jeff Hajek is a Lean consultant and the author of the book, Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?, which was a finalist in the 2009 National Best Books Awards. He also publishes a free online Lean reference guide, The Continuous Improvement Companion.