A Fear of Pain and Lean
For most, when they hear the word ‘lean’ it sends pain shooting through their body. Just like mentioning the word ‘dentist’ to some people, it can create a mental image of extreme pain. It conjures up images of layoffs, reductions in operations and unreasonable expectations implemented by heavy handed managers. Bring it up in a staff meeting and you might have a few try to run for the door. Those feelings do not help foster a sense of open mindedness that is essential to the implementation. Unfortunately, this is due to lack of understanding regarding the lean approach. This is a terrible shame for the companies out there who could actually be providing better conditions for their employees if they only understood what it is really all about.
What It Is and Is Not
Let’s outline a few factors that highlight what lean is not:
- Doesn’t mean layoffs – Fact is, it depends on continuous employee input for the purpose of retention.
- Doesn’t mean overworked – Employees aren’t given ridiculous production standards. It creates an efficient and easy process, which makes their environment better.
- Doesn’t eliminate backstock and buffers – In the manufacturing world, this is would be insane and never tolerated.
- Doesn’t mean cheap quality – It indicates quality on high! Expenses are simply measured against demand and reality.
Now let’s outline some points about what lean is:
- Lean minimizes waste – Less waste increases employee satisfaction and higher customer value.
- Lean means corporate responsibility – It demands the business be responsible in every aspect of their operation.
- Lean is a constant process – It means that analysis and improvement is ongoing, never ending. It is the culture.
Easing the Pain
Changing the culture by open communication is crucial to dispelling the myths of lean. It won’t immediately relieve the apprehension. Just like a dentist who claims to be ‘pain free’, communication will be met with a certain skepticism. The real proof is in the action, and employee fears will subside when they’ve seen tangible, positive results. Just like when you finish at the dentist, the overall experience will probably much less painful than imagined. Change is a painful thing for most, but the proper implementation of the process can be a positive and pain-free process for all.