All organizations face the same challenge when beginning a Lean implementation: where do you start? Some have done a great job of getting their Lean implementation rolling while others have done it through a lot of trial and error. There isn’t one “right” way to begin Lean. Each implementation should be tailored to the organization’s unique needs, but the following guidelines will help get you started.
Lesson # 1 Start with creating a daily problem solving culture!
The most common mistake organizations make when starting Lean is to start with a tool, usually 5S. 5S is easy to train and can make a quick visual improvement in an area, so it’s a place many organizations choose to start. Don’t do it! 5S is an outstanding Lean tool but that is all it is, a tool. It does not fix any problems; it creates a visual workplace so problems become more visible. But unless you have created a problem solving culture in your organization, often the problems shown through 5S go unaddressed and the areas slip back to the condition they were in before the 5S implementation. 5S won’t work until daily problem solving is taking place!
Another common error in both Lean manufacturing and Lean health care implementations is in equating Lean implementations with discrete projects. The projects will provide “a win”. However the gains will be short lived and will not change the way people think, lead or work. A Lean implementation that is sustainable requires a problem solving culture and projects such as kaizen events are just one part of that culture.