A roadmap will prove invaluable to a company during its lean journey. Here, this lean transformation roadmap is constructed through five phases including the areas of concern—from education to infrastructure.
Some of the considerations influencing the path taken include:
- Where a company is before it begins lean transformation;
- What conditions or issues it is dealing with through each phase of the trip; and
- The company’s willingness and ability to adapt and change based on the actual experiences and learning of its workers.
The lean transformation roadmap includes five phases, but the lines between each phase are typically blurred, and the characteristics can blend together.
It is important to understand that the roadmap can be viewed from the department, plant or company level. One part of an organization might be at one phase, while other parts, of even the entire organization, are at a different phase.
THE TRANSFORMATION ROAD MAP
As previously mentioned, the roadmap consists of five phases with common elements, but different approaches within each phase ( see figure 1). The roadmap will help assess what phase a company is in on its lean journey and what needs to be considered at each phase.
Each phase focuses on some common elements; education, application, communication, infrastructure, time frame tools and methodology, and expected results.
Phase Zero: Exploration
Not all businesses need to experience the exploration phase. Those organizations already committed to lean often skip it and proceed directly to Phase One. Typically, leadership and / or management initiates Phase Zero by trying to understand more about lean, how it fits into the organization, what challenges it may pose and, most significantly, what payback it may offer.
In Phase Zero, an organization develops awareness and general understanding of the application and benefits of lean. An organization may also assess its current state to identify its lean education gap.
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A company latches onto a particular tool, gives it a try, and fails. The tool might have failed because of poor implementation or simply because it was the wrong tool for the organization.
There is no formal communication during Phase Zero, but it is likely that a “rumor mill” emerges from the exploration. Leaders should be prepared to respond to questions about the company’s plans for lean and to allay any fears about its implications.
Essentially there is no lean infrastructure in Phase Zero.
Time Frame : 0 to Approximately 6 Months
Phase One: Building the foundation
Phase one assumes that a company has explored lean as outlined in Phase Zero, and a decision has been made to move forward with lean implementation. In Phase One, a company’s leaders will also begin to understand and apply tools to uncover the true current state and build tension in the organization.
Those who take critical leadership and implementation roles in this early state develop a deep understanding and appreciation of lean’s rules and principles.
Application is an important component of Phase One as well as all subsequent phases. Here, organizations typically focus on one or many small areas
An organization in Phase One uses communication to build a “burning platform,” a clear and powerful reason to change, and spread the message of lean’s importance and value.
A company has an infrastructure to manage its business. It also needs to develop an infrastructure to manage lean implementation.
Time Frame: Approximately 3 – 9 Months
Phase Two: Expanding with Tools and Deeper Thinking
Phase Two expands lean to a larger part of the organization and burrows deeper into lean tools and lean thinking. The focus is now on critical business issues, not just localized issues and opportunities.
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In Phase Two, an organization needs to expand its lean education efforts. It should build deeper skills and across a wider cross-section of the company to deal with tough problems and capitalize on bigger opportunities
The small localized areas that have already started on the lean journey should move to the next plateau by applying more advanced lean tools and developing mechanisms and structures to sustain performance gains
A company should use communication of focus on lean’s tangible results and share best practices.
During Phase Two, the major public gas and electric utility company developed its lean specialists and provided support from a centralized group.
Time Frame: Approximately Six Months to two Years
Phase two focuses 25% upon building knowledge and 75 % on performance results. A company should expect some breakthrough results that start to move the organizational performance needle.
Phase Three: Integration and Reinforcement
In Phase Three, a company integrates lean into every aspect of its business. This phase assumes a company has stabilized lean processes and behaviors.
In Phase Three, everyone in the organization should have a basic level of understanding, a common language, and a fundamental skill set.
During Phase Three, organizations should incorporate application of lean into all areas and all functions of a department or location and validate it with measurable results.
There is more informal person-to-person or person-to-team communication during Phase Three.
Depending on resources, a company relies on either a centralized lean group or local lean specialists for its internal infrastructure.
Time Frame : Dependent on Variables
At the end of Phase Three, an organization is building upon already-found gains. It is experiencing major breakthroughs and its performance is moving forward at a constant pace.
Phase Four: Building Momentum
When an organization reaches Phase Four, there is some danger it may fail to recognize lean is a journey that is never complete. Because the company experiences constant breakthroughs in performance, its leaders and workers may become complacent and even arrogant.
Education is the cornerstone upon which lean will continue to grow and develop. It helps keep everyone sharp and focused, and serves as a beacon for ideal states in every aspect of a company.
Lean is now not only integrated into every day-to-day activity in the organization, but is fully integrated into every decision-making thought process.
In Phase Four, a company should be communicating about lean externally with suppliers, customers, financial institutions – even the community.
At this point in the journey, lean skills and infrastructure are embedded in the organization of every business unit, regardless of the service or product provided.
Time Frame : Ongoing
Lean efforts and culture drive performance gains in safety, quality, cost, delivery – even brand value.