Deming said, “The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better.” It sounds good but does this actually happen in our target and performance driven organisations? We find many organisations fixing problems rather than solving their root cause, putting out fires and being heroes. Maybe this is because in the short term it seems easier to jump and take action based on what we think is the solution and time consuming and difficult to find what the real problems are.
Looking at how the work gets done is one of the fundamental challenges of the Lean Practitioner. Fixing performance problems continuously and for good requires understanding of what the true problems are. These might be issues that extend throughout the organisation and when we look into processes that cut across functional boundaries and stepping into territories of stronghold cultures, we inevitably hit barriers and resistance to change.
We want to empower people to feel able to challenge and improve processes and the system in which they work, but how do we do that when expense constraints in the organisation drive fear that this exercise is about cutting jobs and instantly paralyses cooperation?
Value Stream Maps are useful tools but they are only a means to understanding what is going on, where is there non value activity. To turn a Value Stream Map from a tool into transformational proof requires influential and interested stakeholders who can see and understand flow, because it’s all about flow. But flow is often a fundamental change in thinking, particularly in some service organisations.
The Japanese word Gemba means the place where the work gets done – where the action is – and this is where management begins. At Catalyst, we talk about Process Stapling, where we “staple” ourselves to the product or service as it moves through the process. It’s an excellent technique because it is pragmatic and meaningful, walking people through the real experience of the customer.
If you can’t take leadership to Gemba, well, we suggest you take it to them. One organisation we work with staged a pop-up project storyboard presentation in the corridors at the same time as a scheduled board meeting. As the board came back from lunch they stopped and browsed over the project charters and control charts – real information about what was really going on in the business. They felt inspired enough to scrap their planned agenda and talk about what they saw for over an hour and this event injected the necessary fuel – the influential and interested stakeholders – to turn a pilot into a programme and build the capability that has delivered astonishing benefits.
Being a real Catalyst takes more than cherry picking tools and techniques, it takes ingenuity, energy and commitment and most importantly, a recognition that we all need to think differently. The tools reinforce an holistic and integrated system that supports a way of thinking. And we only learn the thinking and get to know the methods thoroughly, by doing.
If you’re looking for an introduction to Lean Thinking, try a comprehensive 3 day Lean Practitioner course which is now running as part of the modular Open Training Programme. To find out more, simply contact us.