Updated: Sep 13
Copy-and-paste doesn't work in lean transformation
The title of this blog was originally a line from a poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. He died in 1939 so would have no idea that his poem “Traveler, your footprints” holds a key lesson for strong lean thinking (and life!). The poem (translated by Mary Berg and Dennis Maloney) goes a bit like this:
Traveler, your footprints
are the only road, nothing else.
Traveler, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk.
As you walk, you make your own road,
and when you look back
you see the path
you will never travel again.
Traveler, there is no road;
only a ship's wake on the sea.
“Traveler, there is no road; you make your own path as you walk” are the lines that resonate for a lean transformation. Lean is situational, the steps you take to improve a manufacturing company depend on a massive range of variables. For example:
Capability of the people
Capability, condition and complexity of the processes
Or, Or, Or...
The skill of the lean thinker lies in helping the team to understand what to try to improve, in what order. In other words, to locate and size the most useful experiments to tackle the ‘pain’ (or capitalise on the ‘gain’) that the business faces.
Machado was right, there is no set road to becoming lean, the road is made by each company that walks it. Their personal road. Of course, there are broad building blocks:
Don’t hurt your people
Have a product portfolio that makes money in aggregate
Collect the voice of the customer
Make your processes basically stable
But the road is unique. “Copy and paste” lean programmes won’t and don’t work. We’ve seen it, tried it and bear long faded scars to remind us of the pain.
However, there are a number of questions and observations that helpfully indicate (1) how mature, in lean terms, your manufacturing business is and (2) whether you are headed somewhere useful.
How to start your lean transformation
The reasoning being; if you know where you are, you can navigate to a better place. This is why we’ve spent a lot of time at Sempai putting together a “How Lean are you?” scorecard, 33 questions, across 4 categories for a 5 minute investment of time. We’ll even send you a personalised report to guide you to the next steps.
The 4 categories cover:
1. Driving your business forward
How clear is your vision for a lean future?
2. Knowing where you are
How lean is your plant/factory currently?
3. Looking in the mirror
How lean is YOUR thinking & behaviour
4. Assessing your team
How capable is your current team?
All of the questions, like the 3 below are quick to answer:
The TWO no-brainers you can fix in your factory sharpish
As an example, we've been analysing the results from the 100's of manufacturers that have completed our lean transformation scorecard. The answers to 2 other questions jump out:
❌ 53% of factories have ceiling lights not working
❌ 67% of Senior Managers don't stick to the safety rules
✅ Fix the lights and you'll get an improvement in Quality and morale. Productivity often jumps a couple of points just by lifting the gloom
✅ Senior team - that's you Ops Directors & MDs - you know in your heart that adherence will improve if you stop using your phone while walking, cutting across cells and not using marked gangways.
Most of your people want to help the business thrive, but they sniff out double standards sharpish and react accordingly.
Get started today with our Lean Transformation Scorecard
We’d invite any leaders in manufacturers out there to complete the lean scorecard here – simply considering the questions will challenge your path and give a little insight into lean transformation.
"Traveler, there is no road; you make your own path as you walk”, so let Sempai help you to start walking somewhere useful.