There are many potential explanations for Lean’s high failure rate, from lack of leadership, impatience and integration issues, to short-termism or ‘not invented here’ syndrome. However, from my observations over many years in the sector, I would say that one of the critical success factors is whether or not there is a Lean specialist at the heart of the programme.
I’ve seen many firms embark on an intended Lean transformation, setting out with big ambitions and high expectations. There is a huge initial effort to get the project off the ground, enormous excitement about the possibilities Lean offers for the business, and a strong desire for success. But over time the enthusiasm often ebbs away, leaving all those good intentions gathering dust in the back of a cupboard.
There are many different kinds of Lean specialist and it’s important to find the right one for your organisation. Sometimes a consultant is required to come in and troubleshoot or unlock the process if it’s become stuck in a rut. Other times, what a business really needs is a fully embedded expert in a permanent role (or even a team of them working throughout the organisation).
The point is that a highly trained, experienced Lean specialist will be a major driving force in your Lean transformation and greatly increase your chances of sustained and tangible success. But first, let’s define a ‘specialist’.
To me, a Lean specialist has several years of training and on-the-job experience under their belt. While there is an important role for employees who have completed some basic Lean training, due to the complexities and challenges of Lean implementation you really need a specialist who has a breadth and depth of experience as well as solid Lean qualifications. So what are the benefits?
1. They’re skilled at spotting roadblocks
Lean journeys are never smooth and sometimes it can be hard to identify where the real roadblocks are. A Lean specialist will be much more able to spot problems and will have the tools and experience to get the process back on track quickly.
2. They see life through a Lean lens
A Lean specialist will look at your business through a Lean lens. Whereas a less experienced person may put on their Lean spectacles once or twice a day, the specialist has permanent Lean vision, constantly looking for ways to reduce waste and add value, even in the most unexpected of places.
3. They’ve already learnt from a lot of mistakes
Learning from our mistakes is all part of the improvement process, but the benefit of a Lean specialist is that they will have already learnt from lots of mistakes made earlier on in their career, bringing with them the resultant learnings and successful outcomes rather than the frustrations and baggage of failure.
4. They have infectious enthusiasm
If a person has devoted their career to becoming a Lean specialist, you know that they are passionate and committed to the cause. Lean business strategy frequently suffers from being a passing fad which quickly falls out of favour. With a Lean specialist as your flag bearer, their enthusiasm for Lean transformation will be a powerful force within your organisation, a pebble dropped in the water which creates far-reaching ripples.
These are just some of the benefits of working with a Lean specialist and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Equally, if you’re looking to recruit just such a person – whether on a temporary or permanent basis – please get in touch.