March 20, 2017

4 Tips for Communicating a Lean Continuous Improvement Manufacturing Operation

4 Tips for Communicating a Lean Continuous Improvement Manufacturing Operation

How are lean manufacturing efforts received within your organization? While the general concept of streamlining processes for greater efficiency – known as lean manufacturing – may be generally understood within your company, how well are you communicating the need for this process to be ongoing?

Successful continuous improvement calls for your employees to be fully engaged and committed. It requires having your entire team to have trust in the process and understand their role in it. Any meaningful change must be culture-driven.

However, when an organization decides to make a cultural shift in the way things are being done, that change will likely be met by some resistance—especially among team members who have been doing things a certain way for a long time. Here are four tips for converting doubters to enthusiastic supporters of lean continuous improvement.

Communicate Your Vision: Why Are You Making Changes?

Be clear in your message—explain why it is important to the organization in achieving its goals and in serving your customers. What is your vision, and how can you help others see it in a way they can relate to?

If your organization wants to create a sustainable lean improvement process, you must communicate this objective throughout your organization—not just at the beginning of your endeavor, but as part of your ongoing message. If you are asking for a change, anticipate your responses to the people who will challenge the process, and be prepared to answer why:

  • What’s in it for your employees, your company and your customers?
  • How long will it take to see the improvements?
  • What is the company trying to accomplish?

Rally the Troops: Get Early Buy-In

The more you are able to get buy-in from early adopters within your organization, the better chance you will have in getting others on board. Round up early adopters within the organization who not only share your vision, but who will also be effective at getting others to realize that leaner practices will bring greater efficiencies for all. Having buy-in at the top of the organization is important, but it also helps to have advocates at other levels within your organization. Ask these group leaders to share their stories of how one or two changes effected positive change.

Small Successes Lead to Great Accomplishments

Keep your expectations within reason. When considering continuous improvement, Toyota is often held out as an example. Is that a model that makes sense for a company of your size? If you ask for everyone to immediately change everything they are doing, you are going to encounter chaos and resistance. So start small. Keep the initial lean process improvement steps simple and appropriate for the size of your organization. Once you achieve one or two successes, you will be able to build on them with more. When your employees see the results of the lean process improvements, they will become advocates and even embrace further changes. Remember, this is a continuous process—it is meant to be evolve with changes in your industry and your company.

Celebrate Your Victories

The well-known saying “seeing is believing” works wonders. Track your performance from the beginning and share the company’s positive results throughout the organization. Break the results out by team so that individuals can be recognized for the contributions they have made. By doing so, you will that others will be motivated to get on board to help further the lean manufacturing process. Success has a way of building upon itself, and that goes a long way to ensuring that your process will be self-perpetuating.

Keep your end goal in mind at all times, but also remember to be patient. Change takes time—if you launch each change with clear and open communication, you will be far more likely to achieve your vision.

The Manufacturing and Distribution Group at Marcum works with companies to optimize their operations through process improvement initiatives and by incorporating lean accounting concepts to achieve long-term results. To learn more, come to WIRE-Net’s Lunch ‘n’ Learn series, presented by Marcum LLP on March 23 to learn from lean leaders in the area. You can also reach out to Jon Shoop directly at 440-459-5700.