Not So Fast

OK, we’ve got our kaizen team going full speed ahead, and one of the improvements will be to replace the central printer with individual desk printers to avoid interruptions and transportation waste. Workers won’t have to get up and walk to get their forms. Hooray!

“But,” one of the workers says, “we like getting up every now and then, because otherwise we’re just stuck in our chairs all day, and if we don’t get up to get forms from the printer, we don’t get any breaks at all.”

OK, we’ve got our next kaizen team in high gear, and we’re going to create a one-piece flow line where every worker can do the job in less than a minute and then pass it to the next worker (using check-do-check). In order to do this most efficiently, the workers are moved to standing workstations (where they were sitting before).

“But,” all the workers say, “we don’t want to stand for eight hours a day! That’s too hard on our knees and feet, standing in one place all day long.”

OK, we’ve got our next kaizen team running fast, and we’re going to do a 5S where the places for all the workstation supplies are laid out and the locations taped off and labeled.

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“But,” some of the workers say, “you taped of the spaces that work for right-handed people, and 10% of our staff is left-handed. How can you expect people to do the work if their supplies aren’t in the locations that work best for them?”

Have you had circumstances like these? In these situations, where the “leanest” solution may not be the one that gets the most buy-in, how do you facilitate the team to come up with the most efficient work process? Do you accept a little less “efficiency” or “lean-ness” in the interest of employee buy-in? Or do you manage to convince the team to try it? For these real-life examples, we were able to come up with compromise solutions, but I’ve taken some flak from colleagues who chide me on not pushing forward with the most “pure lean” solution. I’d be interested to learn about approaches you have used in any similar experiences you have had!

Comments 2

  1. Fang Zhou

    First, I keep in mind that as a facilitator, I don’t own the process or the outcome. They do. It’s not just buy-in. It’s about ownership.

    Second, these situations suggest needs for further goal clarification or root cause anaysis. Lean tools and solutions look straightforward. But they don’t fit perfectly in every situation. We have to challenge the assumptions and be creative.

    In the printer example, I would ask "Is walking part of the critical path?" Does walking really cause delays? Where is the data? Which individuals are affected by the central printer? Why cannot we put printers only on some people’s desks so they get forms fast and others can still walk to their colleague’s office for a break?

    One-piece flow itself doesn’t require standing. What is the takt time? Is standing the only solution or completely necessary to meet the takt time? If the cycle time with standing is significantly shorter that takt, the operators can take breaks to rest.

    Can you develop a quick change-over procedure between left- and right-handed operators? Can any supplies be placed indifferent to either hand?

    In my opinion, waste reduction is only secondary to the overall flow of value-creation. I always ask "does the change really make a difference in the value we create for our customer?" Waste reduction without impact on the flow is a waste of time because it’s internally focused and our customer doesn’t see the impact.

  2. Lucas

    I set a for hard-to-get employees a less lean baseline and improve over time. Once they see the benefits of the initial improvement, you have the buy-in you need to go to a total-lean improvement.

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