When Two Lean Cultures Meet – and Merge

April 20, 2018
Embrace the synergies and appreciate the experiences each member brings to the effort, suggests Orbital ATK’s Edward Kestel.

While much has been written on the topic of lean, little of it has focused on the merging of individual lean cultures. Perhaps that’s an oversight that needs to be rectified. Manufacturing acquisitions, mergers, takeovers and other combinations are inevitable. So too is the eventual meeting of two distinct lean cultures.

How do you handle that? Edward Kestel, operations director at Orbital ATK-Space Systems Group, has some ideas. He's been deeply engaged in the process of melding the lean cultures of Orbital and ATK, and he will share his experiences at the 2018 IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo

In advance of his session, How to Merge Two Separate Lean Cultures: A Case Study, Kestel shared several insights with IndustryWeek.

IW: How important is culture when it comes to continuous improvement?

Kestel: Driving a culture of success with two merging companies is extremely important. A lean culture must be aligned to the same personal values of its population. Our team members embraced the synergy and appreciated the experiences each member brought to the effort. ATK brought a culture established from the Alcoa model and Orbital created our own lean culture from the Toyota Production System model. We referenced the Shingo model to keep the focus on the principle of core values.

IW: What is the primary takeaway you hope conference attendees get from this presentation?

Kestel: Learn the importance of developing overarching principles and a structured management review process to making this merger of cultures work.

Find out about the challenges lean leaders encountered as they rolled out a single performance excellence system, including getting all the employees on board.

Hear about several specific tools and methodologies the new system incorporates, including standardized work, A3 reports and a visual factory template.

IW: You've clearly got personal experience with this topic. What is one of the most challenging aspects of merging two separate lean cultures?

Kestel: Our biggest challenge was performing “best practice” comparisons and implementing the change.

IW: Can you give us a little tease? What is one tool that played a significant role in making this merger of cultures work?

Kestel: Creating a culture of success was our goal. The use of A3s to clearly define the current and target conditions was crucial.

IW: Are you done merging cultures? Or is it a continuing effort?

Kestel: We’ve created such a culture of success that Northrop Grumman has made an offer to purchase OrbitalATK. We are in the final government approval cycle and look forward to apply this process again. At that time, the offer was 22% above market value.

About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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