Is it time for your team to get Lean?

February 15, 2018

Even in the most structured organizations, workplace processes can be extremely chaotic and disorganized. There’s always the risk of there being incomplete or outdated information being shared on the team, failing to benefit from lessons learned which results in the team constantly reinventing the wheel, and different people carry out processes in different ways. Coordination and collaboration between groups or people becomes disjointed or disconnected. This results in critical tasks and assignments being skipped, overlooked or delayed.


This can all not only be stressful for employees and costly for organizations, but it can lead to your entire team feeling fractured and far from aligned. 


Lean done properly not only creates tight teams, but it forces managers to do what they are supposed to do: and that's manage, instead of having to consistently step in themselves to put out fires, or hiding behind emails when things go astray. This is one of the cultural changes, and the ongoing improvement that comes from implementing lean.


But in the age of the knowledge worker, we need to quickly adapt in order to compensate for inefficient processes. We need to commit to 'making it work,' regardless of how difficult making it work may be.


Where do most teams get it wrong?


1. Processes are not thought through in advance.


Most of our processes don’t start out purposefully disorganized.  But  when your team consistently creates shortcuts and workarounds rather than going through a complete overhaul, that can have a massive impact. Work is quickly pieced together out of sheer necessity when deadlines start to loom over everyone's heads, and no-one stops to give any strategic thought to how that will affect the big picture long term. 


This results in a hedge-podge process thrown together over time, and often by many different people with completely different objectives and perspectives. Rather than one smooth, streamlined process, you find yourself sifting through a mess of notes, half finished task lists, scattered spreadsheets and informal procedures. Without a well thought out process in place, this quick and disorganized way of working gradually becomes "the way people have always done it."


2. Processes break down over time


People generally accept the operational shortcomings of the status quo once it becomes habit or “the way that people have always done it”. The reality is that processes need to be continually improved upon in order to evolve and grow with your organization. You need to consistently consider why what you implemented originally may no longer work well with your team today. 


Poorly designed and deteriorating processes can have a dramatic impact on your business. Outdated processes can result in lost revenue, increased costs, lower employee morale, and missed opportunities.


3. Information is not being passed on


Problems can also occur when you have a key employee leave and take all of the knowledge they have gained in their position with them, or a new employee is hired on and needs to be properly trained in order to hit the ground running. When a process is difficult, complicated, cumbersome and is challenging to execute, we are also prone to making more mistakes and errors.


This all results in ample opportunity for process improvement by properly utilizing lean principles. The lean philosophy emphasizes creating more value for customers with fewer resources, by better optimizing the flow of work. The outcome of properly implementing lean is a more organized, communicative organization where employees have quick and easy access to tools they need. Employees are left empowered, and able to to deliver better service to customers, time and money is saved due to more efficient processes and workflows, and all of this leads to more profitable business results.


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