Kato's Lean Office Four-Step Plan

Dec. 21, 2004
Planning, leaning, implementing and sustaining.

Kato Engineering followed a four-step plan from MainStream Management LLC. Here's a summary of the plan: Planning: Steering team selects a process targeted for waste reduction and appoints a resource support team (RST) to be accountable to the steering team. The RST typically includes the process owner as well as an internal customer and supplier. The first job of the RST is to determine the process definition, process boundaries and goals of the leaning initiative. Each of these components must be clear and measurable. The RST then selects the process improvement team (PIT), which is a cross-functional team charged with developing and implementing the lean action plan. The final element of the planning phase involves training the RST and PIT in lean skills such as mapping, problem solving and developing team chemistry. Leaning: Compressed into a one-week kaizen format, the mission, boundaries and goals must be developed in this period. During the leaning activity, the PIT is engaged full time in mapping, identifying waste, testing solutions and developing action plans. The RST oversees the work of the PIT, providing resources as needed and direction towards leaning the old process. Mapping process content is a critical element of this phase. The lean mapping technique is visual to categorize the different activities involved in a process. It focuses on wasteful content. Implementing: Implementing the lean action plan requires dedication by all team members. Project management techniques to ensure that tasks are completed on time are a critical component. All team members must participate. Constant focus on both technical and acceptance issues is essential. Barriers must be evaluated to understand causes. Acceptance issues, in particular, must be addressed with a sense of urgency to prevent them from becoming long-term obstacles. Frequent sessions that require the RST and PIT to report progress to the steering team are important to ensure the teams remain accountable for achieving action plan results. Sustaining: Sustaining begins when the steering team approves the leaned process (based on completion of leaning actions). Evidence that the new process is fully implemented is determined by documentation of process steps, training of employees to the new process techniques, and establishment of data collection and measurement to ensure process stability. If the new process does not function as a standard process, it is not ready to be approved. Upon approval, the PIT is dismissed from its duties. The RST continues to monitor the new process by evaluating metrics and staying in close contact with users of the new process. It also conducts periodic audits of the new process.

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