Should "lean" be a department in your organization?

Friday, December 29, 2017

AME Author, Founder, Fulcrum ConsultingWorks Inc., AME Great Lakes Region Director

Manufacturing businesses have many departments: IT, Engineering, Sales, Accounting, Supply Chain, Production, Quality… and the list goes on. Despite the widespread understanding that silo’d organizations suffer unnecessary time delays and communication failures, “Lean” is often added to the list of departments.

So, is “Lean” just another silo in your organization?

Companies on the euphemistic “Lean Journey” often create just that.

The arguments for a separate lean department are legion:

  •     Lean is a full-time job
  •     Lean is a cross-company service, like accounting and IT
  •     Lean responsibilities within an individual’s role get short shrift
  •     We don’t have time for everyone to learn “Lean tools”

Those are logical thoughts. So is having every group of Lean subject matter experts (SME’s) form a department, like engineering, IT, or sales. Those thoughts, regardless of how logical, rarely create the optimum outcome.

Consider these questions:

  •     Does your current departmental organizational structure effectively meet the needs of all your constituencies?
  •     Do the internal customers of your “shared services” believe their needs are met on time, in full, every time?
  •     Does your organizational structure limit time delays and miscommunication?

If the answer to any is “no,” why would creating a “Lean department” be optimum?

“I can’t do my job without IT support.” IT has become so integrated into how we communicate and make decisions, that we can’t imagine doing our jobs without it.

Lean thinking is rarely so ingrained. Does anyone in your organization say “I can’t do my job without Lean support?"

Maybe that’s the real question to consider.

Why don’t your employees find “Lean” support indispensable to success?

Until we understand the answer to that, does it really matter where your lean expertise resides?