Lean thinking strategy for organizations with company training

Lean thinking is a mindset that is fundamental to building an ever-improving, relatively simple, transparent workflow that is necessary and applicable to creating complex, digital and innovative products/services in today’s dynamic environment.

The goal we pursue with the establishment of the new way of thinking is to add the value necessary for the customer to the product that creates our company, with fewer resources and eliminate surpluses. Reference: “Strategy for Lean Thinking and Learning in Organizations“,

The above goal will be achieved by taking action in two main directions, oriented to the most valuable resource (human) and the work process.

Every innovation or practice will be based on at least one of these two main directions. In particular, the logical sequence in my strategy is organized in 3 separate stages.

Lean begins with an analysis of the current state of the company

The first stage is a detailed analysis of the current state of the company in the most important aspects. This includes communication between all levels; the quality and the ways of transmitting information between all units; all the features and problems in the work processes; the quality of the material base they have and its connection with the efficiency in the processes. Reference: “Lean integration in organizations – a real example“,

Without an adequate assessment of the current status of the company and the identification of specific weaknesses and problems, the latter cannot be addressed. To be effective, the strategy must be focused and specific, not chaotic and relevant. Therefore, quite logically, the first step will be to register all those problems in the company, which are probably due to the lack of lean thinking, respectively. can be resolved by establishing such an attitude. In this sense, I would choose to establish mental attitudes through procedural changes; I would prefer to cultivate a spirit of work but through specific small, every day and even purely technical rules.

Employees and Lean

Thus, the employees of the company, without feeling instructed or intrusively guided, will be able to draw their conclusions. They will realize the usefulness of the new idea without wasting unnecessary energy on beliefs. As the case is hypothetical, I point out the potential problems that may reduce the value. In real conditions, I would get the same directly from employees at all levels – from individual workers to senior management. (Sometimes it’s the differences in their versions that show where the problems are.)

Problems related to people (unclearly assigned roles; too narrowly specialized staff; constant multi-tasking and interruption of the work process; tendency to cover up mistakes; incomplete/incorrect use of staff capacity; unclear prioritized performance of tasks; conditions for honor burned -out, lack of teamwork, pointless frequent or chaotic transfer of work between employees.

Work process problems

Problems related to the work process (waste of resources; creation of redundant products due to unclear priorities or too frequent changes; loss of technological time due to a poor organization; excessively difficult and slow approval procedures; lack of rhythm in work, interconnectedness in processes; defects in the product, which at times slow down the process and repeatedly return it to the beginning; lack of quick reactions and adaptability in the event of a problem).

Problems in the material base and information handling (any obsolete technologies, any redundant actions from a technical point of view (eg cumbersome or redundant data entry; inefficient storage of information, the transmission of information; manual execution of tasks that can be easily automated and such). Reference: “20 Keys to Workplace Improvement (Manufacturing & Production) explained with examples and strategies”,

The listed problems can be a daily reason for making lean decisions and implementing a new way of thinking, offering a radically different approach from the previous one. It might be easier to develop and distribute a handbook for the lean leader or loan officer, but this would be ineffective. In theory, everyone knows that it is good for people to feel supported and for managers to trust them, but how to turn this into a working reality is the more complicated question. Here comes the place of the second stage of the strategy.

Small changes for overall Lean thinking

The practical implementation of small, step-by-step changes that patiently and tolerantly send lean messages. My idea is quite simple. Team spirit and self-organization are always useful phenomena, but when it comes to lean thinking, I would start from the top down. Ie first I would involve the top management by coordinating the general measures with it, then at the level of department managers, teams, and only then the individual team members enter into my strategy.

From the individual employees, I might take the most important information from stage I. to build the right strategy, but at this stage, they are not the first to turn to.

New attitude for the organization

With such a conceptually new attitude for the organization, it must be started by the people who lead it. My motive is easy to justify in life – no matter how much I advise and guide someone, there is no greater power than the show, from personal example, as if there is none (especially when it comes to leadership). People always watch what we do, not listen to what we tell them. To have better optimization of the processes, the practical aspect of training in change is important. No matter how theoretically we explain the rules of the game, players learn them quickly and efficiently on the field. Reference: “Professional Scrum training and certificate from or Which one to choose for Scrum Master Certification?”,

Despite the above, I do not deny the benefit of clearly stated values ​​that show the culture of the company – by presenting it on its website; through an internal code of ethics in which to lean ideas; even better through online leaflets, brochures, memes, which are distributed in a humorous way among individual employees. The latter aim at suggesting certain values, but barely noticeable and effortlessly daily. These techniques are sometimes effective, but not enough to change the overall work process. This includes specialized lean leadership training for company leaders

I will explain to senior management why there is a need for a new approach, backing it up with examples and facts again. After receiving support and green light, I begin to descend to the lower levels of management.

Maybe I would communicate with them most regularly and most actively. My goal is to establish governance that makes employees feel supported, understood, valued, and free.

Team leaders need Lean training first

It is the team leaders who have the most direct impact on employees. This top-down movement will also specify the procedural changes.

At a higher level the direction of the change is specified, and with the specific team managers what exactly the change should be depending on the activity of the specific team.

Once we get to the individual members of the team, they will not have a say in what, but they will be able to point out how we can best implement the changes to make them work more productively. I illustrate with an example: If change is to use the capacity of talented employees (for ideas, innovations, optimizations), things should happen slowly and with gradual changes, inspections, and adaptation.

It is not a good idea for a person who was highly specialized yesterday (albeit with great potential) and wanted support from a higher level for every major decision to be suddenly left to act entirely alone. This would cause excessive stress from the change, sometimes there is a risk of a frivolous approach. Therefore, it might be most sensible in such a case to gradually expand the powers of such a person, observing whether this is productive. First, one can ask for his opinion on important issues, then delegate certain responsibilities, then goals tasks, and finally to provide an opportunity for key decisions in the field.

Improving the quality

We could approach the same model with every change in the work process. Another example in this direction – improving the quality of source code can be done by consulting with the programmer how much time he needs, without pressure and stress, by explaining how important quality is. Setting a clear priority will guide the employee and improve quality. Successful tests of any precisely created code will save time for the future, as well as stress. Reference: “Lean Management strategy for development in software companies with Scrum and Kanban”,

In other words, the implementation of lean leadership and way of work will take a long time, will be an investment in the future, which will be reflected in any technical, organizational, and managerial decision for innovation or change. Lean intention combined with a concrete change in work is the formula for success, which I imagine would lead to the most lasting and good results.

Lean company training with continuous improvement

The third stage is based on the idea of ​​continuous improvement. It includes targeted and continuous monitoring of the work process to improve it. This is not a task done once and for all, but a constant accompanying element of the way work is perceived. In this way, all weaknesses in the process will be identified on time, which will be addressed quickly.

Potential problems could be:

Such an approach will require more active management efforts. Especially with a long-established micro-managerial approach, there will certainly be (quiet at best) resistance. People who are accustomed to pulling the strings and closely following the processes, although they express a desire for change, will find it difficult to put it into practice. Here the habits, but also the mental attitude will create problems. The very fact that we will “introduce”, cultivate lean thinking means that it is absent. The biggest problems I imagine will be in trusting employees, ensuring freedom, and refusing to follow their every step. The changes will take place with the long-term establishment of new values, patience, and small steps.

Closely monitoring is not typical of Lean practices

As far as employees are concerned, I also expect the problems to be on a psychological level. People who are used to being closely monitored and mentored usually do not have enough courage and self-confidence. I have watched intelligent people who have allowed their voices not to be heard for too long (despite their enormous potential) at one point get used to it, resign themselves and even accept that they may not have the capacity to make decisions but just follow instructions.

This will also not be an easy process if there has been such an approach to them. Long, well thought out and constant encouragement will be needed. As I mentioned above, in small steps, with the gradual expansion of responsibilities and freedom, talented people will develop their potential.

It should be explained very frankly and in detail to the top management that such an investment in the future means that some trade-offs must be made. Improving quality (at least temporarily) slows down processes, hence quantity or productivity. The latter affects profits. The company must have a high level of awareness of what direction it is going and what its true values ​​are. If it is not clarified what can be expected and in which direction it is going, things could get much worse. Changes will be made slowly and as smoothly as possible, but there is always a price to pay. Senior management must be aware of it and be willing to pay for it.

Training courses for company leaders

Training aids is my last topic. Putting the leaders in the company (especially teams) in real conditions in which to share experiences with other leaders in the framework of lean leadership training will be very useful. In this way, they will learn about successful strategies. The experience of their colleagues will be useful to acquire useful and specialized knowledge in this direction.

By Robert Brown

Robert Brown is a longtime manager of a technology organization and author of a management book. In his spare time, Mr. Brown helps students get a better education by helping to publish free study materials.

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