Regardless of the approach adopted, the role of the boss always turns out to be of paramount importance during the implementation of both technical and sociological aspects of lean business philosophy.
Having analyzed experience gained from cooperation with different enterprises, conversations with company bosses, the studies of subject matter literature and Internet sources, here’s are some thoughts on this role in ten points, dare we call them commandments:
- Have a clear vision and improvement goals for the whole organization. The process of gaining acceptance and preapproval for a proposal by evaluating first the idea and then the plan with management and stakeholders to get input, anticipate resistance, and align the proposed change with other perspectives and priorities in the organization.
- Be an engaged boss initiating changes. The boss’s involvement in training his immediate subordinates is also helpful in implementing Lean philosophy. Firstly, it gives an opportunity to get feedback on how the subordinates understand the subject matter and what their attitude to the announced changes is.
- Improve processes and the results will come consequently. Process improvement is not a one-day activity but it means continuous improvement. It is also important that the boss makes it clear to his employees Process improvement is not a one-day activity but it means continuous improvement. It is also important that the boss makes it clear to his employees.
- Create Obeya-like management centre. What actions have been planned to eliminate these reasons in order to improve the process? How these actions being implemented and what are the effects? How does it affect other processes and results?
- Determine indicators and bonuses that show one direction to the managers. The boss needs to be a coordinator of any actions undertaken in the company. He should efficiently lead his subordinates towards one common goal, since only in this way will he be able to ensure optimization of the company operations. Bosses, who evaluate their subordinates on the basis of various, often conflicting departmental objectives, make individual departments oriented on partial optimizations, which are seldom translated into optimization of the whole company operations.
- Motivate your people. Going to production floor in order to directly watch the process, talk to employees, confirm data and understand the situation (instead of relying exclusively on computerized data and information from other people). This practice shall be applied by both top management and lower-level management.
- Delegate the ownership of processes and places to your employees. Employees performing work, dealing with part of the process have a considerable knowledge of what is going on in this process in reality. Many of them are experienced workers, involved in the process for many years. It must be noticed that job rotation among management members is much higher than among lower level employees. Greater frequency of management members’ replacement accounts for the fact that lower-level employees, not managers, possess significant part of internal knowledge in the company.
- Engage everyone in problem solving and continuous improvement. Employees’ engagement in problem solving and continuous improvement results in many refinements which, at company level, bring about a speed of changes greater than that achieved by investment in new machines alone. In Toyota’s plants each employee makes on average from a dozen to several dozen improvement suggestions a year and in some plants over 90% of such suggestions are implemented. This results in productivity increment, fewer mistakes and greater safety at work stations.
- Teach your employees to achieve “the impossible.” The thing is to set a goal for people in the organization and make them move towards its achievement by showing proper behavior patterns. It will be a great success if the whole organization starts to think this way, not just a small group of enthusiasts who constantly want to change something (unfortunately, they are scarce in numbers). It can be reached by building good relations with employees. Feeling good in their work environment and having a sense of responsibility for their workstations, they are much eager and willing to use their creativity.
- Practice the routine of Gemba Walks every day. Going to production floor in order to directly watch the process, talk to employees, confirm data and understand the situation (instead of relying exclusively on computerized data and information from other people). This practice shall be applied by both top management and lower level management.