Pete’s Note: I’m pleased to have Jim Baran provide a guest post for us today on the Seven Wastes of Lean Human Resources – in other words, within the Human Resources system, what and where and how does waste look like?
Enjoy his article below and more about Jim Baran at the jump.
Lean is a people system. Its design is business continuous improvement and respect for people every minute of every day. If this is true, my watch stopped 15 years ago.
I’ve worked in and with human resources for the past 30 years. The last 15 years providing talent to hundreds of lean inspired companies. Regarding people processes it seems as if nothing has changed. The people processes in existence before lean have not changed because of lean.
The goal of lean is to provide products and services to customers without nonsense and waste. The assumption that all human business is somehow HR business is mistaken.
The reality is HR and lean organizations share in the consequences of a disengaged workforce. It is nonsense that these two factions rarely connect, collaborate, or participate together purposefully in the lean process. This disconnection creates knowledge resource waste. Instead of purpose and credibility, the workforce sees special effects. Respect teeters daily.
Overproduction: Overproduction is waste defined as producing work or providing a service prior to it being required or requested.
- Perhaps, overproduction in the human business of lean is best portrayed as over enthusiasm. To quickly get our arms around lean, we’ve built separate lean departments to coexist beside established HR departments. Each is independently managed. Common purpose is difficult to ascertain.
- The problem with HR & lean not joined collectively is this: both exist because of people. Both produce to, not for people, at different speeds, different directions, and with different expectations. Lean measures human performance with value creating rules and tools; HR measures human defects with complex ever changing laws. Skill development is overshadowed by justifications.
- These disjointed mindsets are often interpreted by internal customers more with “if then” uncertainty than sustained value. Tribal customs remain in constant motion and conflict with expected and ideal lean transformation performance standards. Messy.
Waiting: What are we waiting for?
- What’s keeping HR and Lean from joining together to work on the human business of lean? Are we waiting for contract signatures to tell us we must work together to accomplish greater good?
- Some lean inspired HR folks I’ve spoken with embrace and engage in lean activities often – not because they have to, but because they understand value is in the action. Lean thinkers seem to enjoy and spend much time “turning the lights on” in knowledge workers heads but almost no time in the heads of people who work with people knowledge daily. For years we’ve tried connecting HR & Lean through osmosis. The time to self-initiate is now. Any step closer to close the gap between these two groups is incremental improvement.
Motion: If HR is more about recognizing flaws as to comply with laws, then people will often go through the motions to comply. Motions are not processes. If visible processes are constructed between HR and Lean then they can began to interact with each other daily and start learning from each other. We don’t need a judge to grant joint custody of the human assets inside a lean learning organization.
Transportation or conveyance: There are usually no planned routes connecting lean knowledge and learning between the various people systems and processes lean learners travel.
- It’s my experience lean is interpreted and practiced differently at every company. It’s supposed to be different because people, not plaques or certificates perform the work.
- HR and Lean practitioners both depend on external sources to certify their knowledge credibility. HR utilizes the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM); Lean has assorted choices. All are portable. A few years ago, companies started certifying their workforces to measure lean learning and application progress (bronze, silver, chartreuse, etc.). Unfortunately, workforce certification is limited to the company you’re currently working for.
- What collective knowledge transfers to those performing the work? Who earns more money, those certifying or those performing the work? Since both HR and lean share responsibility for a disengaged workforce, and lean knows no boundaries, does it not make more sense to have one collective body of knowledge than several?
Overprocessing: Lean is about thought processes.
- People don’t like being told one thing while witnessing something else taking place. Stop over processing minds and under estimating intellect by the representation of lean solely in context of creating customer value. Who are the customers of lean learning? What learning is taking place when employees see their factories dismantled, sold, and jobs disappearing? They hear learning is taking place but have to wait a year or more for feedback on a performance appraisal form that typically says nothing about people and lean and the skills that bind its progress.
- Engagement? Try engaging HR and Lean first. Let them collectively work on modeling ideal Lean leadership behaviors. It should motivate more people to participate daily in the lean process, not question it.
- How many HR people does it take to change a light bulb? In non lean organizations it requires an army. One to evaluate the job, another to determine how much to pay the bulb changer, another to evaluate their attitude and performance, and yet another to weigh up what benefits the changer might receive for performing the work. Others deploy on ladder climbing training and work safety procedures. Still unsure, we rely on experts to assess whether the bulb changer has suitable behavioral capabilities to perform the work. If all fails, an entire legal team is on call to assess collateral damage.
- In lean organizations, HR and lean join to provide information and skills flow that directly supports work being performed. The bulb changer understands everything about the work and all steps involved in doing it. What’s more, work combinations are practiced daily to improve timing, quality, and safety. Excess inventory is eliminated by losing a few experts and attorneys. Remaining “what-if” resources are deployed elsewhere to produce “can do”.
Defects: This category of waste refers to the amount of processing required to correct a defect.
- Lean in western cultures has been implemented for decades. I’ve spoken to thousands of lean leaders who are justifiably frustrated with responsibility for changing cultures singlehandedly. Lean was never intended to be implemented or led by one department. However, most companies practice it this way.
- If future and ideal states of lean produce different mindsets, job designs and performance standards than those currently practiced, defects will continue to occur by default.
- HR and Lean need to construct processes between them to eliminate defects caused by conflicting respect for people ideology. Without a visible process connecting both, our vision is more like a large retail parking lot where people are constantly backing into each other. We either need bigger mirrors, better signs, or fewer parking spaces.
Connecting HR and Lean isn’t a blue sky proposal. A visible process to connect and skills to improve daily participation between these two groups is needed now. We’ve learned much from the founding fathers of lean. HR and Lean can start today by learning lessons from the lean sisters: Carin & Sharin.
It’s Your Turn
Do you agree or disagree? What obstacles and/or benefits do you see?
About Jim Baran
Jim Baran owns Value Stream Leadership. Jim has been a student of lean since 1985. VSL’s work includes: hiring lean inspired talent and helping companies better connect their existing talent so all interact and participate daily in the lean process.
Jim’s background includes many years in manufacturing human resources leadership and talent project management. He connects with life through family and fly-fishing.