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The first rule of lean is “you do not talk about lean,” and the second rule of lean is….  (ok, just kidding with the fight club reference).  If we were to state a first rule of Lean, it should be “respect is where the work is done” – meaning those who transform the product by adding value for the customer are the most vital and thus are due respect.  The second closely related rule is “you do lean with people, not to people” – always demonstrating respect as you ask questions to improve the value to the customer.   Lean requires total employee involvement to thrive.  The concept of total employee involvement may seem more like a fairytale than an achievable goal, and so with business needs building up and pressure from above to “implement lean,” we often force lean techniques onto the shop floor.
Resistance to change from an external entity is as human of a response as kicking when a doctor taps your knee to check reflexes.  It is also true humans are a communal animal, that is to say we desire cooperative relationships and a sense of community.  So it seems the challenge is to get beyond our natural reaction to resist and to leverage our natural need to work together.
I propose that resistance to change is more fear based than change-averse based.  We primarily resist changes we do not understand, and therefore cannot see the benefit of.  With this perspective in mind and our customers’ expressing a need to develop lean knowledge on the shop floor, we developed the Lean Manufacturing Practitioner program.
A practitioner can be defined as “one who practices something especially an occupation, profession, or technique.”  This definition is in line with the intent of this program, that upon completion of the program, participants will be able to practice and develop their skills in the following lean concepts:
  • 5S Workplace Organization
  • Standard Work
  • Kanban and Pull Systems
  • Problem Solving
The program is 28 hours of training held in seven four-hour sessions.  Modeled after our Lean Manufacturing Champion program, the participants learn the concepts by “doing the work” at a host site.  For the days a participant’s sponsoring company is hosting, the organization gets the benefit of dedicated group of lean practitioners, focusing on applying a lean concept to their workspace.  For the days participants are at a sponsor company they do not work for, they get the opportunity to broaden their view of manufacturing by observing a work environment with different cultural norms and approaches as they apply a lean concept.
By applying these fundamental lean concepts in a non-threatening training environment, the participants are free to learn for themselves via their own perspective the benefits of applying the concepts.  Lean is no longer a four letter word thrown around in frustration (well technically it is four letters, but you get the point), it is now an idea of how to improve the workspace based on knowledge and experience.
Lean implementation efforts that do not invest in empowering all employees with knowledge of the lean tools they are being asked to participate in, can often hit a wall of resistance and at worst fail all together.
The bridge between resistance and total employee involvement is knowledge and understanding.  Powered by the Active Learning Model, the Lean Manufacturing Practitioner program is designed to provide individuals on the shop floor with practical lean knowledge and understanding such that they can be a contributing force in lean transformation.
The next session of Lean Manufacturing Practitioner will begin Wednesday, September 28, 2016.  Contact Vicki Rumbach at 231-995-2218 or to register.
Linda Slopsema, Training Specialist
(231) 995-2006 or
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