The Lean Tool isn’t IMPORTANT

I’m certain for my fellow lean zealots, this title could be highly debated. However, as I assess facilities and spend time on the Gemba and in kaizen events, I am enamored by the amount of effort and energy spent on the format, design, and phonetics of implementing lean tools, versus the behaviors, principals and purpose for which the tools were designed.

I was recently on the shop floor, and attended three stand up/morning market meetings. The boards were large (one area even had a screen and projector alongside the board), contained lots of information (or stuff depending on your perspective), followed the SQDC approach, a few questions were asked, some actions added to the board, and after ten (10) minutes the meeting was adjourned and the people went about their daily tasks. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the team lead was more focused on following the process of reporting yesterday’s performance, than engaging the team to understand success or failure factors for the day, leveraging the team to solve the gap closure issues at a root cause level, and escalating where feasible. Now, the lead was only doing what he was taught. However, the supervisor nor the site lead after completing the meeting could answer a few simply questions I posed: Will the area win or lose today? Are the functional support areas working on the issues preventing success?

My intent here is to convey, that the lean tool is not important if the people using the tool are not aware of the purpose, principals and behaviors needed to leverage the tool appropriately to deliver the desired results. Sure, format, design, and approach are relevant in the beginning and create consistency, albeit mostly for managers outside of the work area, but the most important aspect of any tool are the people using the tool.

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