Lean Tools

Lean Tools to Drive Goal Achievement


It’s that time of year again. Either you’ve already set and rolled out goals for the new year or you’re in the process of doing so. As a lean manufacturing professional, you probably have many tools you use to ensure your success. Maybe you’re already sharing those tools widely to help others do the same or maybe those tools pretty much stay on the manufacturing floor. Whether you are or aren’t sharing them, here are some top picks for lean tools that can help anyone improve their chances for success in 2020.

Five lean tools to share:

  • 5S: The work cells on the factory floor have shadow boards and clear indicators to show where very tangible tools belong. The same idea may not be the best match for the office, but the principle behind 5S can help anyone. For example, common forms, such as change of address forms and expense report forms, can be kept in a single place that everyone knows about and can access easily. This simple change can save hours of time and free people up to do more valuable tasks that make the most of their time and talents.
  • Kaizen: Many administrative functions are understaffed or so overwhelmed by cumbersome, broken processes that they believe they don’t have time to make even the simplest or most obvious improvements. What if they knew that by dedicating a few days they could eliminate a common bottleneck or major pain point? Would they do it? What if they could also use a framework to make a clear business case for the time needed to make that improvement? Hopefully, they’d take action to improve their own work lives. At the very least, they’d know about the possibility. Increase the success of this type of request for time by getting buy-in from your leadership team.
  • Standardized Work: Determine the most efficient and effective process and standardize it. Again, this is obvious on the manufacturing floor and very helpful in the office. In every function, there are core processes and best ways of handling them. Often, people are left to figure out how they’ll individually complete the processes. Some of the people have figured out tricks and shortcuts to streamline the process while others are doing it how they’ve always done it regardless of what is most efficient. Help them all adopt the best process and use the rest of their time for other work, or shorter work days.
  • Continuous Flow (a.k.a. One-Piece Flow): While the manufacturing floor may be the only place with a Takt time, every part of an organization deals with multiple requests and competing priorities. If more people bought into the idea of doing one thing at a time, there would be fewer errors, less stress, and more completed tasks. Simplify everyone’s workflow with this idea and their goals will suddenly have more room in their schedules.
  • Obeya Room: For large, department-wide goals, an Obeya Room could make all the difference. It allows everyone involved to get all the most pertinent information whenever they need it. The room is organized in a way that makes sense for the team members. That reduces time spent looking for or trying to decipher the information, a costly and completely preventable waste, someone needs to continue their work.

There are many more lean tools that can be used in a variety of workplaces and departments. Ask around to learn more about what people in your organization are struggling with and tell them about the tool you think could help. Phrases like “I’m swamped” and “I don’t have time for…” are dead giveaways that the person you’re talking to may be a candidate for some lean education.

As you look at the coming year and see the projects you can predict, or anticipate some that aren’t quite so obvious right now, consider some ways you can spread the word about lean to even more people in your organization. With all the millions of ways to communicate these days, here are some ideas that are easy(ier) and still impactful.

  • Share written content in a company publication or forum
  • Offer a lunch and learn for a department that isn’t using lean tools
  • Create a meme about a key lean principle or tool
  • Designate some time each week as “Lean Q&A” time to be available for questions
  • Share a quick tip at the beginning of meetings

Your fellow quality and lean professionals are also great resources for improving your own work. Ask the most knowledgeable, innovative, and resourceful colleagues for their input and ideas. Return the favor by sharing what has worked for you and help raise the bar for everyone.

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