Posted on July 18, 2010 · Posted in business, business model, Lean Thoughts, Savings, Waste elimination

In the past I’ve written that, to be sustainable, a Lean transformation needs to start at the top and flow downward. I won’t retract that statement, but I’m learning a different model … firsthand.

Okay, I’ll admit that the jury is still out, but I will grudgingly admit that it just may be possible for a transformation to start somewhere other than the very top and still succeed.

Here’s what I’m learning…

I was hired into a position and title that were buried well below the top of the organization. The manager who hired me would have preferred to have done my job herself, but knew that, to be successful, the new Lean practitioner would need support and a degree of cover. She’s provided all that and then some.

As I espouse, I began with an overview of the business – did I say that it was in a completely different industry than I’d ever worked in before? I looked at the major muscle movements using a flow chart. “Why didn’t you use a Value Stream Map?” you ask. The answer is that this value stream isn’t A value stream. It’s dozens. They all start and end in the same place, but what a knot in between.

Also, as I espouse, I started at the end of the value streams and began working backwards. I conducted one Kaizen event, then another, then a third and fourth. I’m preparing for #5 as I write this.

So far, I’ve had the teams concentrate exclusively on Standard Work and they have achieved some noteworthy results: reduced interdisciplinary handoffs by 50%, reduced processing time of core activities by 60% and developed a communication tool that keeps all practitioners, as well as the customer, appraised of progress.

Monetarily, when these are rolled out across the value streams, these improvements are expected to save in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I’ve tried to gain audiences with whomever I could to showcase what the teams have done and, one by one, the C-Suite has started to take notice. Let me say, results alone didn’t do it. It took the constant lobbying of my boss and her boss to get us to this point. Without them, I’d have surely failed, no matter how successful the Kaizens.

So, here’s what I’m prepared to admit: With the proper support, it may be possible to start a transformation below the C-Suite and succeed. We haven’t succeed yet and won’t until the C-Suite owns the transformation, but there is a glimmer of hope that it just might happen; a glimmer that wasn’t there a year ago.

Film at 11…