Monday, February 4, 2013

Lean Transformation: Top Down or Bottom Up?

When we have Command & Control and grass roots effort, what do we do with the frozen middle?

I have talked quite a bit about the roles of Leadership, Facilitators, and Team Members.  These are important people that are Setting the Vision & Direction, Leading Teams to Improve Processes, and Providing Expertise in their Job Functions.  But what do we do with the managers between the top and bottom of the organization?  These people are the hard-chargers who were good fire-fighters that were needed at the time based on how we performed work under the batch and queue system of production.

These people now own processes, are measured to achieve results (maybe?), and are supposed to be growing the next generation of Leaders that will be replacing them in the next few years.  If you want the improvements to stick, they have to be involved in the change.  This level of the organization is where most of the Project Sponsors will reside.  Increasing the flow in their processes will improve their measures and provide them the opportunity to think beyond the fire of the moment.  Once you are on the Journey there will be less need to break out the old fire-fighting helmet.

This is where strategic tools like Lean Policy Deployment, Value Stream Mapping, and PICK Charts come into play.  These prioritization decisions are owned and controlled by the Process Owners.  It's not as exciting as putting on the Cape and Cowl, but it creates the condition where stability and balance can flourish.  Overcoming the daily fire drills can positively contribute to reduced levels of stress and decreased burn-out.  Remember what Dr. Tyrell said, "The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long."

Once it is determined which improvement is first and what resources will support the transformation the Project Sponsor will help to draft a charter with the Facilitator.  The charter provides the reason the team exists as it defines the Problem Statement, Goal, Scope (In and Out), Business Case, Resources, and Milestone Review Schedule.  If you are trying to use Lean Six Sigma to implement your "good ideas", you will be very disappointed.  The Good Idea Fairy is the ultimate business trickster and will lead you to the point where you are completely disappointed and will resist anything that remotely sounds like Lean and/or Six Sigma.

Our transformation model is simple enough to understand, but is not for the weak-willed.  You must have stamina to make it through the steps, and you will find that you spend a good portion of your time "Making Value Flow".  But this is exactly where you involve your Facilitators and Smart People to make the good change happen.  On the other side you will have a stronger and smarter team.