Lean Culture BuildingContinuous Improvement

Lean as a Lifestyle?

How are your efforts to continuously improve going?

Did something like: “Continuous Improvement? Who has time for that? Who wants to do that? It sounds like a lot of work, and it is often more trouble than it’s worth!” just go through your head? Or do you imagine that’s what goes through the heads of those around you when it comes up?

We come to work to work, and continuous improvement feels like ‘extra’, especially when many of us are just struggling to keep our heads above water. I remember the hardest part for me used to be where to start: ‘What am I going to improve?’ By the way, I have a feeling you could replace ‘improve’ with ‘cook for dinner’ and there might be a similar gnashing of teeth.lift

Find things to ‘put on the menu’ by considering two simple ideas:

  1. Fix what bugs you.
  2. Fix things that vary (remove variability).

The first idea comes from Paul Akers, the author of 2 Second Lean and makes improvement a selfish imperative: “What am I going to improve? What makes my life better and easier of course!”

BONUS: encourage employees by making sure they have resources and latitude to make their own improvements.

DOUBLE BONUS: Make and share fun videos documenting the improvements, like these.

The second idea fights things that most of us don’t give a second thought to, but that waste our time and money. A weekly meeting that sometimes runs 30 or 60 minutes long. Pulling together tools and materials taking twice as long as it should. A submittal process that can take one week, and also 1 month.

Make a hypothesis about how long something should take, and when your expectations aren’t met, ask ‘Why?’ until you get an answer you can do something about.

I was speaking with a new friend this past week who has applied Lean principles in 3 different industries, presently in construction. He shared something a professor said to him 2 decades ago that stuck with him, and it really resonated with me: “Lean is a lifestyle.”

I’m certain that sounds crazy to at least 50% of you that are reading this. But, if you adopt an attitude of, “of i’m going to make my life better by fixing the things that bug me by stealing my time.” My question to you is, how do you turn that part of your brain off when you go home?

Why would you want to?

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