Can any business afford not to take the time to improve their processes?
I talk with many different companies throughout the year and a common phrase that comes up regularly is â€œWe donâ€™t have the time to implement Lean principles into our business.â€ It is always interesting to hear the replies when I ask them â€œWhy they donâ€™t have time?â€
Most companies are run on a crisis management basis, moving from one crisis to the next. They have systems to support their internal processes but most of them are not directly focused on improving their service to their customers. Integrates Management Systems (IMS) were developed to help a business to become more efficient and effective in their day to day activities. These systems such as MRP and ERP moved the information level down to the Point of Sale (POS), where a customer purchasing a product would give a digital feedback to a central database to adjust the production schedule, inventory, etc.
The business world has reached a level of complexity where mangers are surrounded with so much information that they are overloaded. I often see printouts of reports with hundreds of data points that make it almost impossible to make a straightforward decision. The information now contains multiple factors, all of which must be taken into account to reach a satisfactory condition for the business and customers alike. Managers spend most of their time sitting in front of monitors trying to come up with the best formulation to meet demand. It has all turned into a big game of Sudoku, where a manager must get the correct alignment of the numbers to complete the game.
So, the root cause of the problem and why companies donâ€™t have enough time to implement Lean principles is because their managers spend their time playing the numbers game instead of interacting with the people who perform the actual value added activities. A business that is stuck into a repetitive cycle of firefighting is always looking for a hero to step up and save the day. The hero of the day is often a good hearted but over-functioning employee who tries to do their best to help the company and its customers.
They repeat the same pattern of behavior day after day because the management team is dealing with the urgent, rather than being focused on the important. If this company spent the same amount of time developing the same level of urgency towards improving their broken system, they would remove many of the unnecessary distractions. Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is important and should be focused on finding ways to improve business processes to deliver value to the customer. Â Doing this will reduce and eventually eliminate the spread of panic every time a customer places an order.