By Larry Coté

I spend much of my time talking with management in various environments who want to transform their existing organization using Lean. One of the discussion points early on is how to start and the time commitment for them and their staff. When I explain to them that it will take a month or so to see any process improvements and years to change the culture, I see the enthusiasm for change immediately drop.

Most are looking for someone or something magical; to create that overnight success so that they can move on to the next challenge and/or return to their day-to-day managing of the operation or business. So once they have accepted the commitment levels, we spend the next several hours discussing the importance of preparation.

  • strategic alignment (Hoshin Planning – adapting Lean to their existing strategy)
  • their unique training requirements for all levels
  • the Current State analysis both culturally and operationally
  • the Key Performance Indicators and quality measures – baseline
  • the Future State – ideal and 3 month
  • the detailed Future State Implementation Plan – Kaizen or CI events, sequencing, staff involvement and KPIs
  • the Charter – champion, team, KPIs, timeline, etc.
  • ongoing roles of management and staff to ensure sustainable results and continuous improvement

At the end of the discussion, the management team recognizes that this type of sustainable transformation is not your typical bandaid fix. They also recognize, some reluctantly, the importance of the planning efforts and the ongoing support required; if they truly want to make this a successful transformation. The true test of success is when the transformation is still moving forward months and years later, and when more and more ofthe staff are learning how to support and drive value to their clients using the effective structured change methodology.

I recognize that all of you have heard this message in one form or another in the past. Some of you may have had the opportunity to be part of a successful sustainable transformation that is still moving forward. So I thought it might be helpful to use an analogy to reinforce the importance of structured methodology and change.

A colleague of mine, Jon Miller*, who is a Lean expert, wrote a blog not too long ago, that included this video on transplanting trees. I know it sounds a little (maybe a lot) crazy and you are wondering how this fits with Lean transformation. I was skeptical myself.  But once I viewed it, I got it. It was a simple yet powerful way to explain the methodology and critical elements of how to create a better chance of success for your lean initiatives. It captured the concepts and importance of everything from preparation, planning, leadership, cultural change to the ongoing support required to be successful.

*Jon Miller is co-founder and Partner of Gemba Academy LLC, and serves as Advisor to Kaizen Institute. He was born and lived in Japan for 18 years. In 1993 Jon was fortunate to start his career working in lean, kaizen and continuous improvement. He traveled  and learned while visiting many gembas with engineers who were students of Taiichi Ohno.

As you view this video (approx. 4 minutes), take time to think about how it relates to your organization.Some things to keep in mind while viewing –

1) importance of proper and ‘right’ expertise
2) importance of culture
3) importance of planning and prep plus ongoing support
4) importance of your existing staff’s knowledge/experience and
5) importance of having passion to be the best.


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