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The Key to Sustaining your Lean Culture

This week, Robert attended an AME event in Melbourne, covering Lean People development with the topic “The Key to sustaining your lean culture”. The guest speaker was Mike Hoseus who is a former Toyota Executive and co-author of Shingo Award winning book “Toyota Culture”.

Ame Australia speaker Mike Hoseus

Mike covered many of the standard points with the Toyota Ways and explained how important this was when transferred into the America plants. This was not an easy path. The core abilities were held with the production output of the plant, while the leaders in the business needed to learn how to select, develop, and engage people in lean transformation. Without engagement with the people all you can do is use the lean tools. And we know that this will not produce a sustaining lean culture (for example, where you would have a lean team doing lean to others).

To improve this situation there is a way to develop people along the way. Like all processes that Toyota have developed they are simple but doing the simple things are harder than they look. The starting point is problem solving; “Is your company a problem solving company?” questions Mike to the audience – the reply from the audience was only uncomfortable silence.

So we have the problem that many businesses are not problem solvers. Having teams working together solving problem is not the way many businesses are setup. Most businesses are set up as silo, where each department is working with different goals.  We improve this by starting with a simple set of questions to any situations:
1.What is the standard? – if there aren’t any standards, this is the first problem.
2. What is the target, goal or outcome needed?
3. What is the gap? – (This is “the problem”!)
4. What are your next actions towards reducing the gap?

By implementing these questions into your daily work, you start to see where your next action should be. The first step is creating standards that highlight the problems that need to be fixed.

Here is an example: At a recent client, they have set the expectation to produce a part within 20mins. However, when we reviewed the past timing, the average time was more than 32mins. So this didn’t go over too well for the production team and this started a mini-war over what is going on. This is the standard way most many people approach problems; data shows we are over the target time, now go and fix it. Mike points out that this is not problem solving – it’s fire fighting. In this case there was no standard for the operator to follow or  KPI for the shop. So by applying the 4 questions to this situation is a way to break the firefighting approach and start moving toward a learning organisation that use Lean tools to improve outcomes.

In the next article, we’ll look beyond KPI’s but more about that next time.

If you have opportunity to attend a Mike Hoseus event, we highly recommend it. If you haven’t hear him speak for a while, it is worth your time to revisit a great lean speaker. Attending an AME event is also a good way to hear more about what local companies are doing to improve their businesses. The AME (Association for Manufacturing Excellence) Australia is an affiliate of the AME (North America) and is a group of individuals who are eager not only to improve our own knowledge of excellence, but also to share our experiences with other members, both through informal networking and more formal local and international events and conferences.

For more information on AME events around Australia, visit the textAME Australia website and future functions as a great source of information and best practices near you.