Do you really know how to apply Lean in your work environment?
By Sarah Giles
According to my job description, I am responsible for Sales and Marketing for Training Leadership Consulting (TLC). So what am I doing attending a Lean Training Course? It is crucial that I understand all of our products and services, but more importantly, I wanted to learn about Lean tools and techniques to help me improve my department. Also, in staying true to our commitment to continuous improvement, our team of curriculum design experts are busy with the next release of our popular Lean course showcasing the latest in Lean Thinking. So I decided to sit in and see what’s new. Here is what I found:
Lean is a hot topic in the world of Operational Excellence. There are quite a few companies that teach Lean tools. But not many actually teach learners how to use them in a practical way. With traditional approaches to teaching Lean tools, many learners leave training not knowing where to start. That is why TLC developed FOCUS, a 5-step method that stands for: Focus, Observe, Create, Utilise and Sustain. TLC uses the FOCUS method to teach the history, philosophy and fundamentals of Lean Thinking and the practical application of Lean tools.
The training that I attended emphasised the importance of focusing on your customer’s needs and requirements and on understanding how your customer experiences your process. The customer journey map exercise highlighted that often what we measure and focus on in our business is not important or relevant to our customers. Understanding this helped me to engage from our customer’s perspective and what is important to them.
In the Lean FOCUS training, the instructor used an example of going to the cinema. As a customer we choose a cinema based on safe parking, variety of movies, specials & price of tickets, quality of popcorn, speed of service, cleanliness, etc. Call these “Leading Indicators”. However, often the business owner focuses on ticket sales, staff attendance, concession sales, customer complaints and other indicators of business profitability. Call these Lagging Indicators. What I learned is that if you take care of what your customer is looking for, the Leading Indicators, your Lagging Indicators should take care of themselves. This shift in thinking and understanding your customer’s needs is an important first step in applying the Lean principles.
We also learned about identifying waste in our current business processes. We used a story about finding TIMWOODS which is an acronym for the 8 types of waste. The waste of Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-production, Over-processing, Defects and Skills. I immediately started to identify TIMWOODS in my current processes and how find ways to reduce waste in my role.
Another topic I enjoyed was understanding why it’s important that a company defines its “Purpose”. This is sort of a new concept as “Purpose” is what helps to motivate staff and defines a company’s role in society! How many companies actually spend the time defining that? I know my company’s purpose is to Develop Tomorrow’s Leaders. I enjoy working for a company with such a meaningful purpose.
Going into the training, I thought I knew what to expect. But I was not prepared for how empowered and enthusiastic I feel. I look forward to applying the problem solving tools I discovered during the training. Tools such as Visual Management, 5S, A3, 5 Whys, Spaghetti and Fishbone diagram and remembering to practice Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) are tools that I will start to apply immediately. They will be so useful in providing a structured approach to creative problem solving
The numerous practical activities and engaging training style, which TLC is known for, helped me to embed the key concepts! The FOCUS method really helped me to know where to start applying the Lean tools as soon as I got back to my own work environment.
Sarah Giles is the Senior Marketing & Business Development Specialist for Training Leadership Consulting.