Tue, Aug, 2022
by Paul Dunlop

How do the Lean tools and principles connect?

When it comes to Lean, the array of tools and concepts can be quite overwhelming. We often mention that continuous improvement requires all elements to be optimised simultaneously. It can be a struggle to make sense of how all the lean tools and princples work together in harmony.

Keeping It Simple with Lean Tools

At both the macro and micro level, simplicity is key. Keeping things simple facilitates understanding of what it is we are aiming to achieve. In order to become a learning and improvement organisation, focussed on continuous growth, we must work towards a clear set of strategic objectives.

Fundamentally any tool we use should be contributing in some way to our primary objectives or Strategy. One that helps us join the dots of strategy management, project management and the management of Daily communication and information. The illustration below demonstrates this at a high level, with each layer interconnected and supporting the other:

Strategy Project and Daily Management

Such a continuous improvement system should help us develop effective problem solving skills, and to control processes. We can then expose deviation, supported by a structure and methodology to identify and implement improvement opportunities.

Each layer of the improvement structure has a different purview and cadence. Yet they complement and nourish each other when we adhere to the Lean pillar of the ‘Plan Do Check Adjust’ Cycle. The challenge is then building this structure one piece at a time in a cohesive and methodical manner.

Start with Lean Tools Like Daily Management

Perhaps the most common question is, “where to start?” Well as Taiichi Ohno said, “Start from need.”  Assess where the greatest pain points or opportunities are in the business and start from there. This is typically going to be at the operational day-to-day level. Here we should be focussed on the visibility, organisation and control of processes, activity and resources.

In essence our continuous improvement, lean tools and structures should support us to: Find problems, solve problems and to engage our people in meaningful conversations.

These conversations should be centred on making things better through marginal gains. They should be conducted within a tiered structure where we are able to both separate and connect the operational, the tactical and the strategic. This is the most straightforward, effective improvement structure.

In a tiered daily management structure, the right information will be available in the right place at the right time, in front of the right people. This enables us to take the appropriate action or use the requisite improvement tool with all information smoothly flowing up, down and across the entire organisation.

Pact Group, a leading sustainable packaging manufacturer, recently shared exactly how daily management has enabled them to embed continuous improvement at all levels:

By implementing a digital platform for daily management the whole organisation can work on the business whilst working in the business. For Pact Group, this has led to:

  • A 2/3 reduction in safety incidents.
  • On-time, on-budget delivery of critical asset renewal projects and productivity program.
  • Daily feedback loops for clear task prioritisation thanks to frontline contributing directly every day.
  • Ability to fit in strategic work alongside routine, daily activities.
  • Customers reporting higher quality and levels of service.

Don’t Boil the Ocean

This system works for any stage of maturity but the key is not to take on too much all at once or make the scope of work so big it becomes impossible to find a solution or make impactful change. Getting the buy-in for implementing the routine daily management discussed above starts by canvassing your people. Involve the very stakeholders who will be affected in the development of the action plan. Not only do they have the knowledge & experience needed to inform a successful plan, but they will be the key people implementing it and making it business as usual.

The 5 Whys Exercise, is perhaps a great entry level problem solving tool that can be started and then slowly built upon. 5 Whys is a simple, easily-digestible problem solving technique that has the people closest to the problem ask the question ‘Why?’ repeatedly until arriving at a root cause. It helps us build the action plan by identifying quick win opportunities; focusing the scope of work. As the use of this tool matures for smaller problem, building it into a larger, more comprehensive Problem solving Tool for Chronic Problems will be a natural progression for all involved.

The same thinking my be used for a whole range of Lean Tools from 5S and Routine Equipment Cleaning routines to Loss analysis & Improvement Idea generation. Start from need and build from there.

Make it Clear with Tiers

A tiered management structure allows for further clarity, alignment, and visibility. A deep understanding of the priorities of each team and the organisation as a whole. The CI tools used at each level all serve the same purpose. They make the process visual, expose problems / deviation and involve the stakeholders in improvement through PDCA.

Each Tier serves as a point for escalation, visibility and decision making. Plus, it ensures that the focus points are aligned with the Tier above and below through KPIs, standardisation, and the effective deployment of key initiatives. The illustration below outlines the high level structure and focus of each tier. If you’d like to learn more, you can read about tying the tiers together here.

Tier Best Practice Diagram_Dark

Lean Tools Help Give a View of the Whole C.I. Framework

To ensure a cohesive effort in each of the areas of strategy, project and daily management, we must ensure that they are built with each adjacent area (and their respective processes) in mind. For instance, Daily activities like Leader Standard Work and Daily Huddles must be supported by standardised problem solving techniques, documentation and an adherence to the PDCA process.

As mentioned above, to achieve this cohesion no element of the greater C.I. Framework should be orphaned or developed in isolation. That’s why we designed an interconnected platform that ensures there are no disconnected ‘Point Solutions’ (digital or analog) that can hinder organisations from achieving their objectives.

TeamAssurance Connected Systems Chart

Digitising your tiered structure through TeamAssurance provides businesses with an unrivalled tool to integrate and connect all levels of the business seamlessly. Ease of use, clear and simple visibility with minimal barriers to entry make for a powerful continuous improvement process that will immediately improve any organisation and launch them into the future.

If you’re a Business in need, or a Consultant with clients in need, contact us for a demonstration of the TeamAssurance platform today.