WCM Associates LLC Newsletter

Edition 51

January 2013

In This Issue
A Review of the Template for Starting a Successful Lean Journey

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A Review of the Template for  Starting a Successful Lean Journey 


To Improve - You Must Change


by Larry Rubrich


This article is for organizations that are unhappy with their lean journey so far, or for those that are just starting their lean journey.




For those companies that are just starting their lean journey, we need to begin with Lean consultants. Is there a role and need for consultants?


The short answer is yes. Organizations need consultants, but only to get started on the Lean journey. To be successful with Lean, organizations must ultimately "own" 100% of their Lean activities. Some consultants want to "feed a man a fish" rather than "teach a man to fish" and make the organization entirely independent of them. So choose wisely. This means that when a consultant is engaged, their exit strategy is also immediately developed. When properly selected, Lean consultants provide a lot of value and will ensure the organization starts the Lean journey headed in the right direction. Here are some guidelines for the role of Lean consultants: 

  • They have "fresh" objective eyes to tell the organization what is really going on in contrast to the Leadership Team's perceptions.
  • They will do the initial Lean training, including Policy Deployment.
  • They provide guidance on selecting your Lean Facilitator (see below).
  • They will train, coach, and mentor the Lean Facilitator. Their goal is to transfer all their knowledge to the facilitator.
  • They will make available all training materials that they use at the company to the facilitator for their use.
  • They will train the Lean Facilitator and other selected team members on how to do Kaizen Events.
  • They will schedule one-day return visits every 6 months after their exit. 

Beware of consultants who:

  • Want to postpone the development of an exit strategy
  • Do not insist that you need a Lean Facilitator
  • Want only to do Kaizen Events
  • Do not mention Policy Deployment as one of the first steps in your Lean journey

Organizational Assessments


Any improvement or transformation starts with understanding where the organization is currently in terms of a leadership, culture, and operations standpoint--the baseline. Very few companies have a good understanding of their baseline. Unless an organization has annual associate surveys conducted by a company outside of the organization, the Leadership Team's perceptions and the organizational reality are rarely close. Therefore,

annual organizational surveys and assessments are valuable tools for associate feedback as a double check on leadership, culture, and operations activities.


Additionally, organizational assessments are extremely valuable to your Lean consultant. They provide an education about the entire organization that allows the consultant to hit the ground running for Lean training and Policy Deployment activities.


An organizational assessment is generally a 3-day, on-site activity that develops this baseline by reviewing the status of the following three critical elements of a Lean transformation: 

  • The Leadership Team and management's readiness to change, support change, and participate in a Lean Implementation. The transformation starts here.
  • The current level of associate empowerment and teamwork in the organization (determined by a survey and random associate interviews). To become a World Class Enterprise, everyone in the organization must become involved and participate.
  • A review and comparison of the organization's current goals with Lean's ability to eliminate waste and improve the organization's processes.

Lean Training and Implementation Order


There is no cookie-cutter for the Lean training and implementation order. No two organizations are alike, especially in their starting point.


The following template/guidelines are typical recommendations that may need to be revised or rearranged based on the organization's Lean exposure, Lean experience, and financial situation.


This list does not include completing number 2 on John Kotter's change prerequisite list (guiding coalition) or the meetings and announcements that would be necessary

(from previous Edition #50 newsletter) if this was the organization's initial kick-off of a Lean journey.


1. Management training in the Lean concepts and tools (1 days). Based on the knowledge learned in the baseline, a training program is developed for the

management staff. This session is usually a one-day Lean Overview. Because Lean implementation failures in organizations are always a result of management issues, this training must always include a review of the book How to Prevent Lean Implementation Failures ... 10 Reasons Why Failures Occur (1/2 day).


2. Train the organization's associates in the Lean concepts and tools (1/2 day). Everyone in the organization should receive an initial 4-hour Lean Overview. While many organization's balk at this training because of the cost and difficulty, these same organizations are not measuring the cost of not training these associates in terms of rumors, gossip, bad feelings, and resentment. It is extremely important to get everyone on the same page at the beginning of this culture-changing activity. This Lean Overview should occur before the Policy Deployment training because some individuals in this group will be involved in the brainstorming activities in Policy Deployment.


3. Development of a LPO (Lean Promotion Office).

In the long term, the organization must own its Lean activities; they cannot be owned by some group of consultants. Therefore, in-house Lean experts must

be developed from associates already in the organization (going outside the organization is a distant second choice). Candidates for these positions should have the following basic characteristics (no recruiting or talking someone into this job):

  • A passion for Lean
  • Good with people, excellent communicator
  • No baggage (respected by everyone in the organization)

4. Policy Deployment. This 10-step, four-to-five day management session integrates the organization's goals with Lean, and then plans for the deployment of this system throughout the organization. The ten steps are as follows:

a) Determine mission and behavioral expectations

b) Develop/reiterate organization's goals (Safety, Operating Income, Cash Flow, Revenue, ROIC, etc.)

c) Brainstorm opportunities to achieve goals

d) Define parameters to value opportunities

e) Establish weighting requirements, rate opportunities, and prioritize

f) Conduct a reality check--will the brainstormed ideas achieve the goals?

g) Develop Lean Implementation Plan

h) Cascade company goals into operational metrics and develop Bowling Chart

i) Determine countermeasures--A3 Team Based Problem Solving, Error Proofing, and DMAIC

j) How to conduct monthly Business Reviews-deployment follow-up


5. Begin enabler activities, Value Stream Mapping, and other Kaizen Event activities as identified in the Deployment Plan. 

  • Conduct roll-out activities for the plan that management developed, making sure all the metrics are visual. 

6. Follow-up, review, and adjust on a continuing basis. This means doing the following: 

  • Conducting monthly Business Reviews
  • Adjusting your plan as markets and customer requirements change
  • Making the Policy Deployment activity part of how the organization does business 

At the six-month and one-year points in the implementation, the outside consultant should conduct one-day reviews to look for gaps or problems in the completeness of the training or the Lean Implementation Plan, as well as to determine the developmental status of the Lean Facilitator.


In addition, remember that Policy Deployment is an annual process, just like the budgeting process it can usually replace. Start the PD process as early as possible,

and for the best PD results, involve as many members of the organization as possible. 

This newsletter and its content is copyright of WCM Associates LLC. 
  WCM Associates LLC, 2013. All rights reserved.