Being LEAN in tough economic times 

Focus on these suggestions from LEAN experts at this year’s Lean Transformation Summit and thrive in 2009.

  • Remember that simple does not mean easy. It’s hard to keep things simple because we love to make things complicated. And we have trouble being disciplined and saying “no.” For example, executives from one West Coast health company shared how they’ve adopted standard work for management, which includes controlling their meeting time. They limit the hours and days they conduct meetings to allow leaders time to think as well as go to the Gemba,the place where work gets done. Vice presidents are now spending just 30 percent of their time on routine work with the other 70 percent on improvement work. Bad habits die hard though and it’s tempting to schedule more meetings, one executive confessed.
    • Work harder. Don’t follow your survival instinct to “conserve” during hard times. Instead, decide to work harder so you can emerge from the recession from a position of strength. This will require that you avoid lazy thinking and agreeing to lazy solutions. For example, traditional cost cuts may be painful, but they’re a lazy response and relatively easy to implement. Push yourself to take the higher road and improve results, such as quality, delivery and safety.
    • Develop your people. Recognize that the LEAN leader’s main role is to coach their people to improve. And there’s no better time to do that than now, when many learning and development budgets are frozen. On-the-job experience is a much better teacher than exposure or classroom learning. Research shows that people develop most when they face a challenging situation on the job, such as a big problem they must solve, new people they must work with on a team, new tasks they must perform, or similar tests.
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