Let me share with you a scenario I have seen often -- way too often.
Someone from the C-suite, like the CEO, makes a visit to a nearby facility that claims it is "lean by every measure." He is completely wowwed by the neatness, with a place for everything and everything in its place. He is amazed by the smooth flow of the product and the smooth flow of both the people and the information they need. He is further impressed with the "visual factory" depicting a high degree of control, resulting in excellent on-time performance with low levels of scrap and rework. Furthermore, he sees a workforce that is producing independently at a pace his facility cannot even approach, yet it is working with both a high degree of comfort and confidence -- almost like a stress-free environment. In addition, the facility is doing this with some surprisingly unimpressive machinery.
And he is sold, absolutely, totally sold on this "lean thing."
He promptly gathers the rest of the C-suite and with conviction and passion declares that this "lean thing" is "exactly what we need." With animation like he has never displayed, the CEO relays all of the wonderful things he has just seen. Soon he is surrounded by a group of impassioned followers. Quickly they devise a plan by appointing Juan as the lean leader. He is a midlevel manager who is proficient in many of these techniques and has been a vocal advocate of lean for years. Next they appoint three others to work with Juan -- the lean implementation team -- and announce that Juan will unveil the lean implementation plan in 30 days. The team, on schedule, publishes the implementation plan. They want to get everyone involved so their year-one objectives are to implement 5S and standard work across the entire corporation. Juan and his team teach all the facilities and spend a great deal of time traveling to each facility. Juan and his team not only introduce the initiative but also teach the tools. They then are required to follow up and assist the various locations as those workers implement the lean tools.
Does this sound good to you? Well . . . don't be fooled. This is the perfect formula for failure.
So what's wrong? We have a jazzed-up top management. We have dedicated expert resources to train and support. We have a published plan. Everyone appears to be on board. Excitement and anticipation are high. Doesn't it sound like success is right around the corner?
Well, the lean answer is "no." The not-so-lean answer is "hell no."