Mere Mortal Managers

“Execution” (Page 3 of 5)

Support & Confront

Support all improvement efforts even if they occassionally fail. We call this progress. To support, you must provide genuine encouragement and necessary resources. Sometimes you will support the improvement efforts by allowing a team to work a Saturday on a special project. Other times they will need to purchase a few items that improve a work area. You should constantly be asking the teams and your Lean champions “Is there anything I can do for you? Is there anything you need?”

The other side of this principle is to gently confront your teams and champions when they are clearly regressing toward the “old ways” or “non-Lean” ways of doing things. We like to ask just enough questions to get people back on track without disrespecting anyone. Occasionally we have let teams fail in minor ways so they can learn. They always figure it out; you just have to give them the opportunity to do so. Judicious and genuine person-to-person as well as public praise is completely in order and will energize your teams. Most adults would rather bust their butts for a firm handshake and a straight in the eye “thank you, well done,” than some token monetary or impersonal reward of any kind.

Focus On Primary Constraint(s)

We are constantly promoting the practice of focusing Lean efforts on major constraints. Improvements on critical limiting systems and processes should always yield great returns. Essentially, TOC (Theory of Constraints) methodology of finding your greatest constraint(s) is a great place to begin after you have had a victory or two on the shop floor. A plant’s “constraint” is practically defined as “the slowest operation keeping products from moving out the door to customers.” TOC and understanding your Value Streams are great for identifying where you need to focus your Lean attention. It is best to prioritize your constraints often and work on the greatest constraints sequentially or sometimes concurrently. Generally we prefer attacking constraints one at a time and then re-evaluating the system. There are many “ripple effects” (benefits and problems) that come from improving a major constraint. Normally, the Number 1 constraint in any given plant will bounce around through a few areas, landing on similar processes and or machines repeatedly until major issues are resolved. Revisit the biggest constraint, wherever it lands, every time you find it. This will make the greatest difference to your company’s throughput.