Five Steps to Starting LEAN Successfully

In LEAN methodology, businesses become more efficient, more profitable, and less wasteful through a plethora of time-tested strategies. However, many of the strategies might not be immediately intuitive, and may therefore not have made their way into your original business plans. Many people find themselves in this position, and want to figure out how they can make a peaceful, positive transition into LEAN within their business. In order to accomplish this, you need to keep in mind five key steps for making the transition to LEAN: Goal Evaluation, Mindset Preparing, Implementation, Training & Assistance, and Monitoring. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail now.

1. Evaluate Goals And Aims

In the first step of making the swap to a LEAN system you need to figure out exactly why you want to do it in the first place. Do you need to make better use of your space? Do you have too many defective products making their way to market? Is production moving too slowly to keep up with demand? Is inventory becoming dated before it is all used up, causing waste? Think about how your business, specifically, could benefit from becoming LEAN. Once you’ve got them, write out each goal or aim in detail and keep it nearby at all times. At every other stage of the process ask yourself, “Is this what I want? Does this action get me closer to my goals?” The better you can justify the transition to LEAN yourself, the better chance you’ll have of convincing others, which brings us to…

2. Prepare Mindsets for Change

As with any overhaul, there will be resistance to change. If you can’t get employees on your side, a transition is going to be difficult. The best way to go about this stage is by imagining yourself in other peoples’ shoes; think about what concerns they might have and realize that they are valid, and based upon self-truths to each person. Maybe a worker is concerned about his or her performance suffering while learning a new system, maybe he or she wonders why a system that may have seemed to have been working well is no longer good enough/needs to change. Announce your intentions to change things to your workforce as a group, but then set aside a day or week to talk with each person individually. Ask them what they think of the idea, and then do your best to firmly but gently defend your position, and help answer any concerns they might have in a logical way. No one wants to be told they’re wrong, presenting the facts and letting them change their own minds is much more effective.

3. Implement Systems

This is when it all comes together. Once you’ve got your intentions made clear and your crew on board, it’s time to make the changes. Bring in experts, re-arrange the work floor, change out tools and machines, clear out unnecessary inventory, put up new signage, charts, Kanban boards, visual indicators, etc. Depending on your goals and plans, the LEAN systems you’re implementing will likely vary, but in any case this is the time to bring them in in full force and get running. Try your best to either involve the workers in the changeover process OR do it on a weekend or time where no one is around; the worst way to implement is to leave employees to their usual devices while you get in their way changing things around. If you do it during work hours, you want to involve employees because at least then they will have a personal stake in what’s going on and get a break from the usual beat of things. This will turn the break from a nuisance to something with a more positive association.

4. Assist With Training & Changeover

In the days and weeks following your initial changeover, offer lots of assistance to any struggling workers. Hands-on training and advice should be available this time so that when questions arise the right answers are given from the beginning, instead of workers just arbitrarily going with what they think is the right way to do something without actually knowing – LEAN can take some getting used to, so make it as easy as possible.

5. Monitor

The longevity of your success with your new systems comes down to discipline. Make sure that new methods form to habit and that they are continuously implemented correctly. You can ease on monitoring after a month or two of smooth operations, and enjoy your newly LEAN business!

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