We’ve all had one of those shifts when everything comes together – we aren’t starved of material, no equipment break-downs, we have a full crew and Bob is on OP70 – and we really ‘nail it’! There are ‘high-fives’ all round at the end of the shift, your manager shakes everyones hand thanking them for their performance (OK – maybe not that far!), the shift changeover works particularly well as your shift challenge the incoming shift to ‘beat that’ rather than head for the door immediately with heads down! There is a real buzz about the place as your shift walk out chatting and smiling and great camaraderie is apparent – similar to a sports team who’ve just won an important fixture. On our journey home afterwards we may even reflect on what a great job we have and ask why it can’t always be like this! Well, the answer is that it could always be like this – what we experienced on that particular shift was actually what happens in a truly Lean business on every shift, and it doesn’t stop there! Imagine yourself in the situation where your shift team continually ‘nails it’ to the point where it becomes the norm – what happens then? There are two potential outcomes: –
- The team become bored with ‘nailing-it’ and lose the buzz of success, they begin to smile less and chat less about their operation, ultimately output begins to fall!
- The team leader challenges his team to (continually) improve, maybe asking questions such as – what do we need to do to maintain output when Bob is on that Problem Solving course next month?
In a Lean business, then outcome 2 will always result as team leaders continually challenge rather than tell. It will not be long before team members are suggesting improvements to their team leader who supports them by giving their proposals consideration and planning in trials to test them out – maybe the leader even challenges the team to achieve their shift target in 30 minutes less than normal to create the opportunity to carry out those trials! So, you’re already thinking ‘but how can I make this business Lean’? Well, you can’t but you could start by improving your shift and you already know what ‘great’ is for your shift – see above. Involve your colleagues and ask them what we would need to do to ensure that we always had sufficient material, that machines never break down, that we always have a full crew, that we’re not reliant on Bob being in OP70 – after all, didn’t it feel great when all those things came together?