People is the most important asset for lean implementation, people is the focus and is the media to make it happen. Although problem solving focused on the process and not the people, I believed the Lean Manufacturing focus is the people. At the end of the day we are trying to make the processes more efficient to create less effort, better use of resources and more safe from the operator point of view. Also we are looking to make customers happy giving them what they need at a reasonable price when they needed.
Nothing of these will happen is our lean journey is not driven by respect. Respect to the people who is doing the processes, respect to our suppliers that provide the raw material to make it happen and respect to the customers. At plant level, while dealing with the early stages of implementation how we present each concept, how we make each question and how follow-up every initiative is very important.
During those early steps what we are trying to do is to sell an idea. When your company leader is the one who is pursuing lean, it is a little less complicated because regardless they believe on lean or not, all managers at least do a minimum effort to make it happen. When you are one of the few believers the journey is pretty complicated.
I found that the biggest challenge is with middle and senior managers. Everybody lined up waiting for something to happen. They are waiting for you to do everything on their departments: training, follow-up and advice; which is not a problem. The problem is when you are training their people but they don’t even show up at the class or the events. Active participation on the events is a way to show respect. Lean is about team work, what kind of team work we have if all company leaders are not rowing in the same direction? Over and over, for me has been easier to sell the idea to the floor managers than to middle and senior managers.
We don’t need people who “agree” to follow the journey but in reality don’t do a bit of effort. I would expect involvement, learning, asking, at least go to gemba and see! We need doers, people who is not afraid to experiment day in day out with the lean concepts. We need people who roll their sleeves and participate from the events with the operators. We need leaders that walk the walk and show respect to those that are genuinely trying.