Why is Lean So Difficult Part II – Strategy

strategyFrom Why is Lean So Difficult Part I we looked at the more common reasons why 98% of people who do Lean don’t get full results they want from it (Industry Week Survey).  One of the main reasons is a lack of alignment usually do to a lack of a coherent executed strategy.   Strategy is the set of activities that the company chooses to do or not do to give the company an advantage in the marketplace.  A coherent executed strategy is one that is articulated well and that is being executed by all levels of the organization.   Lean by itself can be a strategic initiative however if your organization isn’t good at turning a strategic plan into reality then Lean will be exceptionally difficult.  Here are three things to consider:

1) Strategy is More than a Document

Many companies will spend money, time, and other resources on completing a document that is their strategy only to put the document on a shelf and to be seen only next year when you do the exercise again.  Strategy should be what you do day in and day out.  There should be a clear line of action from what the direction of the organization is to the work of the front line employee.   For example a hospital has a strategic initiative to be more integrated with the community.  What that meant was that the hospital employees had to find ways to engage with the community more.  They were given time to generate ideas and then given resources to implement those ideas.  Some of the larger projects included a community garden, an outreach/education program, and a community ambassador that would be the voice of the hospital in the community.   

2) Strategy Needs to be Connected at all Levels

 Have you ever had the gears slip while you were pedaling a bike uphill?  If not it is not very fun and having your strategy not connected at all levels is like have constant gear slips.  You’ll be putting in effort but not necessarily going towards your goal.  One example is that a manufacturing had a strategic initiative to innovate.  However the production floor is not allowed to make mistakes and are punished for making mistakes when trying no processes. 

3) Strategy Needs a Cadence

Out of sight out of mind.  If you don’t have a regular way to keep your strategy top of mind it will tend to slip.  Create daily, weekly, and quarterly meetings to keep track of the strategic items.  Daily meetings should be the very tactical day to day items, weekly should be a slightly larger view, and quarterly should be to course correct and do a market scan.  If you have a strategic imitative to reduce costs of your inventory by 50% then the daily meetings would track day to day inventory levels and how you are progressing with improvement projects.  The weekly meetings should be a snapshot of the past week’s performance and a look at what projects are working and not working.  Quarterly meetings are to determine if the goal is still valid or does it need to be changed.

Doing these items will help you with your strategy and in the end help you with a Lean initiative since you will have much of the change infrastructure ready. 

Related Blog Posts:

Why is Lean So Difficult Part I

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Daily Meetings

Why Lean Fails Webinar

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About the Author:

Ankit Patel is a Managing Partner for The Lean Way Consulting and is based in the greater Atlanta GA area.  He combines his skills and expertise in Lean and Six Sigma that he gained in large and small manufactures as well as hospital systems with organizational development.  By doing this he is able to get stunning results for his clients that far exceed industry norms.

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