According to the lean philosophy, a company must strive to use all of its assets as efficiently as possible – and the most important resource and asset is the Human resource. Supporting and driving all employees to reach their full potential usually involves making changes in how the business operates.
It probably comes as no surprise to any level-headed manager that the strongest resistance to change usually comes from that same most important asset – the people. One of the lessons I’ve learned over and over again in my career is that most people react negatively when faced with change.
Because of this common response to changes in the workplace, management must be disciplined, focused and driven to ensure the achievement of a common goal.
Communicating with your employees before making a change and gaining their feedback is essential for creating a positive, productive and competitive working environment. It was through this approach to continual change that Cressall managed to stay in control during the consistent rapid growth period, despite using the same floor space.
Lean management also goes hand in hand with increasing product quality, by eliminating batches, as well as controlling material, product and information flow. Quality is crucial, especially for a company like Cressall, a manufacturer of electrical power resistors for customers in very precise and demanding sectors like oil and gas, aerospace, marine, defence and power generation. Product quality is one aspect which simply can’t be compromised, regardless of the changes that lean management might implement.
Perhaps the feature that transforms a lean manager into a leader is the ability to see where improvements can be made across the whole business, whether it’s in the use of floor space, product quality standards, the IT system, staff training, cash flow, information flow or resource administration. Without a holistic approach and a quest for persistent, continuous improvement, the lean management approach has only a feeble chance of succeeding.
Change can be a good thing and, done wisely, it can improve not just a company’s efficiency, but also product quality and – most importantly – the life of your employees. The key is to never stop innovating and continuously look for solutions that make your company better, faster and more efficient. This way, the constant search for improvement will become the norm for your company. And that is what lean leadership is all about.