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Lean Transformation

In this fast-paced, ever-evolving world, the ability to deliver value efficiently and predictably is most important. Lean transformation enables companies to make that fundamental shift from surviving to thriving by removing those organizational structures, practices, and modes of thinking that inhibit the efficient delivery of value. Lean transformation aims to maximize the flow of value by thinking differently from traditional management practices. As a result of the process, wasteful activities are identified, removed, or optimized. It enables companies to stay agile and resilient to changes. It develops a sustainable value-oriented culture while remaining focused on the customer’s needs and expectations to promote continuous improvement thinking.

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It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to respond to rising customer expectation of quality, cost and delivery, making organizational agility a critical characteristic of success. Lean transformation can be used to implement strategic or operational improvements such as addressing work processes or team productivity problems. It’s a universal method that can be applied repeatedly to tackle a wide range of weak links in a system. We need to develop a thinking organization, which continuously explores at the Gemba and surfaces out the current problem. Have you defined your value proposition for your customers in terms of quality, reliability, cost, delivery, lead time? What is your current situation versus the target? If you are taking a month to deliver your product and services and your customers expect it in a week, that gap is your pressing problem to solve. The product and services are delivered through a chain of processes therefore everyone in the value chain has to be aligned to your goals and targets. It's the alignment of thinking which is the key to change.

Now the organization shall focus on work being performed across the value chain to solve the business problems and achieve the goals and targets. We need to understand the work processes by closely observing, analyzing, describing and breaking down the work processes the way it is happening now. We need to go to the Gemba, where the work is happening and explore. What, in the work process is preventing us from achieving our goals and targets of one week delivery time. Is it design? Process? Supply? Skill? Communication? Working condition? Equipment? Tools? Since the people who do the work are the experts, an organized Gemba Walk by the people who do and manage the work brings out hundreds of problems, within no time. The live observation of the problems triggers the thinking waves in everybody mind and takes all people collectively to a new thinking level.

As we understand the problems to be solved and work processes to be improved that will take us to our goals and targets, we discover something very strange. We often find that the necessary changes cannot be done with current capabilities, be it people, equipment, tools, instruments, handling, movement, logistics, work environment, method, style of work, behavior and so on. These all demand developing the capability to transform, capability to surface out problems, capability to define problem and capability to solve problems. 

As we develop our people's capability to improve their work processes, we start encountering the problems of the management system. Discovering these are natural byproduct of the Lean Transformation Journey. Issues with the management system often relates to structure of the organization, leadership practices and behaviors. If we want everyone to be capable of solving problem, what organization structure is needed to build this competency? Do we have process of problem solving? Do we have process of creating problem solvers? How do people at all levels connect to daily work? How does communication and review of the work occur daily, weekly, monthly and annually to confirm that we are together progressing towards our goals and targets? How the management connects to Gemba and steps in to offer the needed support proactively? What leadership behaviors are necessary to make sure that problems do not remain hidden? How to develop culture of surfacing out problems quickly and efficiently and solve it permanently? Creating a thinking of "No Problem is the Biggest Problem" remains a big challenge for management. 

If we observe the purpose of the lean transformation, it boils down to, first and foremost focus on customer's need. The way to do it is to increase the value-added work from customer viewpoint at every step. Showing the respect for people by helping them to improve their productivity through innovation and adapting new technology. Above all implanting the science of improvement, the Deming Cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act, in the peoples' mind to take the organization to the next level. And the journey continues.

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