As a Director or Manager for Lean /Operational Excellence, you are responsible for supporting the business in adopting best practices in Continuous Improvement (C.I). Your team may also be responsible for delivery of specific projects that target a variety of significant organisational wastes. By building capabilities and delivering on specific projects that support Lean/Operational Excellence, the business expects to see significant benefits with respect to improved quality, service, safety and cost performance.
Measuring continuous improvement activity and results can be tricky. By only looking at results (e.g. bottom line cost savings, higher throughput, less downtime or reduced complaints) there is a danger that too much emphasis is given to lagging indicators of performance that often take time to materialise. While essential to track these, without also considering leading measures of performance, the organisation’s appetite for continued investment in building CI capability may be short-lived.
Effective leading measures focus on behaviours and activities that support these lagging business goals. These typically include having a clear vision and roadmap for the value stream, the delivery of key improvement projects, the effective deployment of standard work (supported by 5S and visual controls), as well as a lean management system that ensures sustainability and accountability for all key improvement behaviours. Developing systems for monitoring and maintaining accountability for these leading activities and behaviours is an important governance activity for senior Lean & Operational Excellence leaders.
While Lean / Operational Excellence Directors or Managers are typically faced with a great number of day-to-day challenges, the following represents some of the bigger, more strategic concerns that we frequently observe:
- Poor functional buy-in to the goals of Lean / Operational Excellence. As a separate function, you will have typically encountered challenges with accessing the necessary human or financial resources to support the continuous improvement practices and projects that you are trying to deliver. Worse still, continuous improvement may be seen as the responsibility of the Lean / Operational Excellence function, rather than as the responsibility of every employee in the organisation. Having clarity over how Lean & OpEx supports an organisation’s strategy is a key first step to ensuring that it receives the full support from functional leaders.
- No clear vision or roadmap for improvement. Typically, the first step in any lean improvement is to deeply map the current process and identify the significant issues, wastes and constraints that are inhibiting flow. While this is a critical first step for business process improvement, it is often poorly prepared and missing the key data and information necessary for a holistic understanding and diagnosis of the value stream problems. This lack of understanding of the real issues often leads to weak improvement roadmaps that fail to address the most pressing areas of concern.
- Poor execution of the roadmap. Even when an effective value stream vision and plan have been developed, often the results are not delivered due to poor roadmap execution. This can be due to weak functional buy-in, insufficient accountability and governance, or significant capability gaps in key Lean / Opex Tools and Project Management. Senior Lean / Opex Leaders must anticipate these gaps and ensure that they are directly built in to the improvement roadmap.
- Weak problem solving and issue resolution capability One key capability that is frequently overlooked in many Lean and Six Sigma training programs is practical tools for effective problem solving of complex issues. While the simple 5-Why’s technique is a useful place to start for many problems, Lean and Operational Excellence Leaders are typically expected to provide more advance problem solving support for complex issues. Developing this capability among Lean / Opex practitioners as well as key functional staff is a critical success factor for any successful Lean / OpEx transformation.
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If you can identify with any of the issues above, why not contact us today to learn more about how Pico can help you to grow your business by enhancing the customer experience, while relentlessly driving out waste.