How to Sustain Gains Achieved from Lean Management and Operational Excellence

lean manufacturing and operational excellence

Achieving the results of lean management and operational excellence is difficult, but sustaining those gains seems even more challenging. The concept of lean management revolves around improving efficiency, reducing wastage, cutting costs and involving the entire team in all series of operations. Lean management and operational excellence often give results when applied in the organization for the long term. It requires a lot of patience to achieve the desired outcomes from these approaches. 

Why is it so difficult to sustain Lean management and operational excellence gains? 

Streamlining lean management and operational excellence has been challenging for so many reasons. Lonnie Wilson, the author of ‘How to implement lean manufacturing’, reviewed 17 of his clients, that were lean users. He found it astonishing that only 35% of them successfully achieved gains from lean manufacturing and sustained them for a long time. Another 65% were underperforming, the majority of which were evident failures. When digging into the matter, the expert discovered that the former have been using lean manufacturing systems consistently for more than five years. In contrast, the latter gave up within some years of practice. The experimentation found two major root causes of the failure: 

  • The underperforming organizations overlooked the external view of their performance. They barely took feedback, only focused on the company’s strengths and disregarded the weaknesses. 
  • They emphasized more on leadership and delegation rather than teamwork and collaborative synergy. 

Due to negligence in finding areas of improvement, and poor workforce management, the organizations could not sustain the gains achieved by lean management, despite its successful implementation and execution. 

Five ways to sustain lean progress and operational excellence

1. Communicate the vision

Lean manufacturing and operational excellence emphasize the maintenance of human capital just as much as it does on machinery and inventory. Hence, in order to improve your employee efficiency, you need to communicate the values and vision of your company. Companies with a clear mission and vision statements outperform those which do not effectively convey their values and ideals with their employees. 

Focus on the future goals of your business and how it will benefit the employees. Educate the team about the initiatives and processes you need to execute to reach the final goal. 

2. Update the standard work

Establishing standards ensures work stability, process quality, consistency and ability to reach targets faster. Your organization’s workflow goes smoothly only when results are up to the standards set beforehand. However, you do not need to have the same standards throughout the journey of operations. You can update or revise the new standards through trial and error by taking note of what works and what doesn’t. Make sure that your team adheres to the standards set by you. 

However, the standard work should not be prohibitive and burdensome to the employees. A perfect idea for setting standards is letting your team give new inputs and ideas without deviating from the main goal 

3. Build a continuous improvement culture

No matter how much we strive for perfection, there will always be room for improvement. As our organization expands, the values and goals start to evolve. This is where the need arises to revamp the incumbent procedures into their best possible version. Lean practices encourage a continuous improvement culture that can boost productivity and increase outputs. 

4. Fostering a team-driven organization

Teamwork always triumphs over hierarchical workflows. When we focus on collaborative brainstorming by giving importance to each individual in the organization, we can develop better solutions for the problems that require a strategic mindset. Recognize the achievements and individuality of each employee and provide corrective feedback wherever necessary. 

5. Maintain Regular training

Give a boost to your employees’ learning curve by ensuring regular upskilling for the team. As your business grows, its roles and responsibilities should also evolve. Training your employees will not only give better results but will also provide career development opportunities for them. This in turn, translates into better job satisfaction and higher talent retention. 

Lean management and operational excellence are both competitive and culturally changing methodologies. These approaches can be extremely promising and provide fruitful results when adopted in the organisation for the long term. It becomes inevitable to sustain and preserve this progress for uniformity and consistency in business outcomes.