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Making The Challenge of Lean Alignment a Little Easier – by Tom Fry
In August’s Lean Support Group, we talked about the importance of shift meetings, and how to get positive momentum and discussion among employees. I’d like to share one tactic I’ve used in the past that has helped me with this challenge.
As anyone who has survived a company restructuring or realignment can tell you, it sometimes takes enormous amounts of emotional energy to move employees from entrenched practices they have performed faithfully for years and get them settled into new routines. Then, they all need to “row together”. Personally, I would rather host a birthday party of three-year-olds that are long overdue for naps, six days a week, than go through that again!
However, as managers this is our lot as we introduce LEAN/CI practices (change) into our manufacturing and business operations. One of the greatest challenges we face with alignment and introducing LEAN/CI practices is getting the employee BUY-IN or OWNERSHIP necessary for new practices to become truly effective.
When I was a technical school instructor, student agendas and attitudes often stood in the way of “my success” as manager of the classroom. I learned to use the analogy of the “Money Machine” to teach the essential lesson of ownership. Like students, employees are people that often bring an agenda to work that can create resistance to LEAN/CI implementation and toward you as an agent of change.
The ownership issue is, in my mind, is one of the most essential value lessons that can be taught to students and employees. The “Money Machine” analogy often added the crucial element of ownership to many of my lessons. It drew the class into hypothetical “what if” situations, which enabled them to begin to think like company owners.
I would begin the “Money Machine” discussion by asking the class to imagine what it would be like if I gave them each a machine that prints money. I would tell them that the machine is theirs to take home, plug in, and start printing their fortunes with! After planting this imaginary seed, I provided a pregnant pause to allow visions of instant retirement, new homes, and sports cars to grow a little and take root in their mind’s eye. I would then ask a pivotal question: would anybody be willing to turn their money machine off and give it a break?
The cynical looks that I got after asking this seemingly silly question were the telltale sign that the answer was unanimous- NO! Everybody wanted to run their Money Machine nonstop. Imagine that! After all, who in their right mind would willingly turn off their own Money Machine except to put more paper and ink into it?
I found that once the value and perspective of ownership had been internalized with a personal twist, it was easier to transfer employee ownership to manufacturing practices. Time is money. When a manufacturing or business process (the Money Machine) is plagued with unscheduled delays from by poor practices, outdated equipment or entrenched personnel, the dollar impact of waste becomes more real for everyone involved.
Employee ownership aligned with LEAN/CI initiatives will often produce the synergy needed to successfully fulfill the most challenging realignment milestones without the “old school” method of investing enormous amounts of emotional energy! Try the “Money Machine” analogy at your next shift meeting and plant the seed of ownership in your field of LEAN!
Thanks to our Guest Blogger, Tom Fry, the lead instructor and owner of TechCentric Training Solutions, LLC.
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