Your company’s lean assessment model helps the business to run smoothly and be more predictable…unless, of course, it doesn’t. A model that’s poorly designed and deployed can create waves of problems across your company.
How do you know if you’re doing it correctly? Start with this list of do’s and don’ts, so your company will be poised for an easy transition.
DON’T Launch Without a Plan
Too many companies give lip service to ideas like continuous improvement and operational excellence, without really internalizing what they mean. It’s not just about forcing employees to memorize definitions and parrot them back.
A good lean management system has specific strategies that drive toward what the Lean Enterprise Institute calls a “true north” - a clearly defined goal. The system needs benchmarks, day-to-day tactics, and measures of success along the road to operational excellence.
DON’T Rely on Bursts of Excellence
Almost every company is capable of producing short bursts of improvement through financial investment and herculean effort. The key here is: Can you sustain it?
For this reason, it's critical that your lean assessment model consider the management rituals and routines required for sustainability. As an example, let's say you're trying to evaluate the application of structured problem-solving. Your assessment might include questions about whether employees have been trained in the appropriate problem-solving technique (e.g., 5 Whys, Fishbone, root cause analysis, etc.).
However, if the model isn't assessing whether there's a process to ensure that those skills are being applied, such as the existence of formal problem-solving triggers, or that there's documented evidence of their proper application, then the assessment result is likely to be a poor reflection of sustainability.
DON’T Declare Victory Too Soon
What some people fail to fully appreciate is that the lean assessment is just the first step in an improved workflow that needs to be actively managed and supported. If the business is satisfied that it has assessed the organization against the model and has no meaningful plan for how to guide people through a prioritized improvement path, then it has failed to put a process in place that will generate meaningful change.
Now let’s flip it. Here are the things your company should do when designing and deploying a lean assessment model.
DO Help Employees Take Ownership
From the first moment, your lean assessment model should encourage employees to be active participants in the process. Instead of taking a top-down, “my way or the highway” approach, view the workforce fellow "assessors" who can use the opportunity to self-examine their organization.
In fact, the process of self-reflection is exponentially more valuable in building momentum to change than simply being told where the gaps are.
DO Make the Lean Assessment Process Iterative and Adaptive
The goal with the lean assessment model should be to drive regular reflection and improvement. If expectations are set that the organization is assessed against the model infrequently (e.g., once a year), then the workforce will likely struggle to stay focused on improvement year-round.
If the assessment can be constructed in such a way as to be compartmentalized and easily updated, then the business can establish a high-frequency evaluation process, which will keep the lean management system top of mind all the time.