Does Lean have the potential to do harm?

We are all students, the final element of lean is to achieve perfection.  As my middle child always says, “there is no such thing as perfect.”  The point of perfection is to continually practice kaizen and always improve the way we deliver whatever it is we deliver to our customer.  This has been the premise of my journey, map the value stream and eliminate muda and chase perfection.

When you encounter a place with local optima so prevalent that everything is unraveling and falling apart but nobody wants to do anything about it you know there is plenty of room for lean.  I’ve been observing through my gemba and discussions with everyone that works here.  There are many different areas to focus lean and I’ve been focusing on many areas at once.  Delivering the product to our customer is my main priority.  In doing this I’ve revealed a devastating effect we caused ourselves, allowing a strict silo of work to keep others from contributing their expertise to the value production.

I’ve been pushing, and will continue to push to break down the silo and allow everyone to participate in the value creation (see last week’s post about demolition).  This effort is becoming more formalized with leadership getting involved and giving their input and buy-in.  A large discussion occurred this week to get a smart way ahead to break down the silos and integrate everyone in doing the jobs that create the products our customers need.  This is a good news bad news story because this meeting was very fruitful and gave us a clear way ahead, one that will phase in the personnel and ultimately get us to our goal.  The bad news…

The personnel currently in the silo have a metric applied to their work to quantify what they do, how much work they do and how well they do it.  The big concern right now is if we break their silo and allow others to do what they do then their quantity of what they do decreases because more people are doing the work and therefore scrutiny will ensue as to why they actually are required.  Basically, everyone is scared I’m trying to eliminate their jobs.

Of course I don’t want any job to go away, I never would be ok with taking away someone’s livelihood and capability to support their family.  I want everyone contributing to the value that we provide and make our organization a smooth operating machine that can function when work is predictable and variable.  But this got me thinking about my journey, in the world in which I live there are certain functions outside my influence and control.  If we hire people based on metrics that say “how much work you do depends on if we keep you” and I lower the amount of work they do, they could ultimately be let go.

Now I have so many areas to focus lean and process improvement which leads to value creation, but I have to do this all with the real measure of what is important – OUR PEOPLE.  I think my true goal is improving the organization to create better value to customers while never letting anyone go from the staff.

Author: TheLeanArmy

I am a student of Lean, on the journey and most challenging opportunity to introduce and implement Lean principles and thinking in my portion of the United States Army. * Completely unofficial and all information is my sole opinion, not endorsed by the government and for personal use.

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