A 10 Year Lean Transformation: Are we really better?
Not too long ago I was an overwhelmed, confused business leader. I had decided that lean was the answer to all of the questions that I had after losing one of my manufacturing companies in the 2008 downturn. I read Womack and Jones book Lean Thinking and was convinced that this was it! Now if I could just figure out where to start! My other company was on life support as well but it looked like we were going to survive. However, operations were a mess, sales were declining, layoffs were happening every quarter as we navigated thru this treacherous time in our 20 year history. Over the next 10 years I would employ 6 different consultants at different times and in different ways. Frank, Ed, Jean, Bill, Roger and Joe had the things that they were good at and they all tried to influence the big picture and get me to think about bigger systems but like many new lean leaders, I ended up focusing on tools for way too long and continued on my Lean Attention Deficit Disorder.
As I look back on those years I often wonder, what would I do if I would have been my own coach. Now that I know that lean is much less about tools and much more about people how could I have seen the light sooner. As I work with the COOs and CEOs I have agreed to help, I find myself going back to the WHY with them often. I go back to the why much more than I remember doing with my coaches in my past.
As I look around at the lean community of organizations at all levels from the veterans of lean mastery and those just beginning, I find myself asking a very important question. “Why does it matter?” What do we expect a lean transformation to do for our employees, customers, managers and shareholders? Are we really improving the business? If I truly look at my own company, my answer would be that I’m not sure that things are that much better. Of course I see evidence of lean prowess and mind blowing improvement over 10 years ago , but what would our customers say to this question of truly getting better? As a shareholder, how would I answer? What would my employees and managers say?
These are the questions that I would like to explore with you at the Lean Coaching Summit. Lets take a step back, take off our lean glasses and make sure that we are guiding people to a better place.
Steve Brenneman is a Lean Coach who holds a BS in Business Administration from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. Steve has a diverse background working in HVAC Sales, Material Management, Founder of ATC Trailers in 1999 and now Board Chair and Lean Coach. His Lean Manufacturing Experience is as follows…
- As CEO led the company from $10 million in revenue to $65 million in 2018 while implementing a comprehensive Lean Management System
- Re-designed the compensation system eliminating piece rate pay while at the same time significantly increasing productivity
- Implemented a Lean supply chain management system inclusive of supermarket driven kanban. Inventory turns increased from 5X to 18X annually
- Implemented full value stream management system from quote to cash dividing up 80% of office functions into value stream teams
- Brought in Lean executive team to lead full lean transformation
- Took company from negative earnings to 1m+ profit for 6 years in a row
- Began three “C” level coaching relationships to guide leaders in beginning their lean journey for the their organizations
Those who want to learn more about Steve’s journey of Lean transformation, his story can be found in, “The Lean CEO” by Jacob Stoller, “The Heart and Soul of Manufacturing” by Bill Waddell, “The Lean Farm” by Ben Hartman, or “Building The Fit Organization” by Daniel Markovitz.