Posted on October 12, 2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

What’s a Lean Culture?

When you walk into an organization that has taken lean seriously, you notice certain things immediately.
First, the site is clean … unusually clean.
Second, workstations are laid out logically, things are labeled and employees are able to work with purpose.
Third, you start to realize that things flow, they move from station to station fluidly.  There’s not a lot of WIP standing around and you may even view Kanban squares on the floor, benches or desks.
Fourth, no one seems to be in charge, but things are getting done.  No one is barking orders or standing over the folks doing the work, yet products and services continue to flow.
You’ll often see a profusion of graphs and charts.  If you inspect them, they’re all current and the things they are measuring all seem to be improving.
Despite the fact that things are improving, there are lists of actions below charts; each action intended to improve the performance measured by the chart.  Moreover, every action has someone assigned to complete it by a certain date.

If you spend time actually watching the work, you start to see photos and short instructions at each station that clearly explain how to do that job.
Workers all seem intent on their work and conversations between employees all seem to focus on questions related to the product or service.
Looking more intently you note that it’s been forever since they’ve had a lost time accident or a finding from an OSHA inspection. 

You may not see it taking place, but you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the leaders of the organization spend a lot of their day in Gemba (where things are really happening).  
Leaders are reading all those graphs and asking questions, and not just of the managers.  They seek input from the people who actually do the thing that interests them.
Some of the questions they’ll ask are: “What would you do to improve this?”  “What can I do to help you?”  “What do you need?”

On-time delivery and quality routinely trend at or near 100%, but perhaps the most telling statistic is the number of implemented suggestions per employee.  In a Lean culture that number is usually at or above five.

When you see these indications, you know what we’re seeing is a genuine Lean culture.