Lean Management

This site provides basic training resources for organizations that wish to begin the implementation of a Lean management system.  The resources can be deployed by external consultants or by one or more organizational leaders who act as training facilitators and Lean champions.  At a minimum, the preparation of a facilitator includes reading the book, The Essence of Lean: A Superior System of Management and listening to the 3-part audio tutorial, Lean Primer.  

These tutorials provide a kind of “starter kit” for building a basic but effective Lean system that can be expanded over time.  There is no “one size fits all” version of a Lean management system, and each organization will build their own system in a way that works best for their own operation.  However, these tutorials provide the fundamental elements that should make up the core of any Lean system.

Each tutorial consists of a checklist file, a notes file, and an audio file.  Most audio files are less than 20 minutes in length and are meant to be played during a 60-minute training session which is coordinated by the facilitator.  Two or more tutorials can be combined into a single longer-duration session if desired.  The audio files provide “how-to” and “why” information and the facilitator should add “what’s-in-it-for-me” comments that are specific to their own particular recognition and compensation practices.

Each checklist provides step-by-step instructions that the facilitator can use in conducting the training session.  The checklist includes relevant chapters and pages of the book and the facilitator should refresh on this material and preview each tutorial audio before facilitating the associated training session.

Copies of the notes file should be printed and handed out to the trainees at the beginning of the session so that they can take notes during the session.  Trainees may want to keep these notes pages including their own handwritten notes in a three-ring binder so that they can keep track of their learning as they move through the program.

It is recommended that the training begin with executives, managers, supervisors and team leaders, although non-management personnel can also be included in this initial group.  This group will receive approximately 10 hours of training based on the following tutorials which cover basic Lean concepts, practices and techniques:

  • Lean Primer I, Overview
  • Lean Primer II, Method
  • Lean Primer III, Culture
  • Visual Controls
  • Waste Finding
  • 5 Whys Technique
  • 5S Organizing
  • Standard Work
  • Stand-Up Meetings
  • Gemba Walks

All employees will then receive approximately 8 hours of training based on the following tutorials which cover the seven wastes and how to find and eliminate them:

  • The Seven Wastes
  • Waste of Defects
  • Waste of Waiting
  • Waste of Excessive Walking
  • Waste of Excessive Processing
  • Waste of Excessive Production
  • Waste of Excessive Inventory
  • Waste of Excessive Transportation

As you move from training to implementation of your Lean system, it is critical to recognize that the Lean work improvement techniques and the Lean culture-building practices work together and support each other.  If Lean work improvement is attempted without first establishing a culture of empowerment, the system will not be as effective and some aspects of the program may actually be counterproductive.  That is why I highly recommend that the management group be trained first in order to begin building an empowerment culture before the employees are trained on the seven wastes and the work improvement activities begin.

The management training and early steps to start building an empowerment culture will typically require about two to three months.  This is then followed by the employee training and early steps to begin applying the Lean work improvement techniques which should require another two to three months.  Therefore, completing the training and installing a basic Lean system can be accomplished in about four to six months.

Implementing a Lean management system often changes the way in which work is performed and the nature of the relationship between leaders and employees.  These changes will usually affect the thinking and behavior of everyone in the organization including executives/directors, managers, supervisors, and associates.  This is accomplished by changing habits and the “ways of doing business”, similar to the way in which getting into shape is best accomplished by changing your life style rather than merely going on a diet.  That is why the implementation of a Lean management system is often called a Lean Transformation.

In order to ease the transition into your Lean transformation, there are three “Lean Ground Rules” that the facilitator must understand and enforce during (and after) the training sessions.  These ground rules address issues and obstacles that are commonly encountered during a Lean transformation, and they are noted in the appropriate tutorial checklists.  The Ground Rules are described below…

Ground Rule #1, Blame the Process, Not the Person, is a critical rule which is especially relevant to Waste Finding, the 5 Whys Technique and the seven waste tutorials.  For waste elimination to be effective in a team environment, employees must feel free to discuss waste and problems without the fear of being blamed or the embarrassment of blaming others for poor performance.  This rule applies to all employees.

Ground Rule #2, Don’t Micromanage, Ask Questions, addresses the tendency of some managers to be overly controlling and it reminds them to work on their mentoring and facilitation skills.  This rule applies to management personnel and is especially relevant in the Gemba Walks tutorial.

Ground Rule #3, Take the Time to Teach and Learn, addresses the common tendency to focus every minute on getting things done and then immediately moving on to the next task, without taking the time to think about and learn about the process itself and how it could be improved.  This rule applies to all employees and all tutorials.

After you have completed the installation of the basic Lean system, you may wish to implement more advanced Lean tools and techniques.  These are listed on the chart, The 8 Lean Practices, and are more fully described in The Essence of Lean: A Superior System of Management.

In continuing with your Lean transformation, I recommend that you go through relatively short-term learning cycles at first, setting action plans and then evaluating the results and updating the plans about every 6 to 8 weeks.  This incremental approach works best in small or medium-size organizations where the pace of transformation must reflect their unique operational needs and resource availability.  Setting the pace is critical because you don’t want to go so quickly that you negatively impact the ongoing operation, and yet, you don’t want to go so slowly that you lose momentum and continuity.

You can now move on to the Tutorials page to see the tutorial files that you will be using when you are ready to get started with the basic training …