How Do You Address Employee Resistance to Lean Manufacturing? | Larry Fast | IndustryWeek

“In the first six to 12 months, get the turkeys out. Don’t drag your feet.”



Michel Baudin‘s comments:

The problem with this approach is that, at the outset of Lean transformation, management doesn’t know what it’s doing. It’s not the managers’ fault, but the skills of leading a Lean transformation in this particular organization have to be learned along the way.

More often than not, the author’s version of “addressing the issue early” means firing loyal employees for disagreeing with something you later realize was wrong. And the message it sends is not one of commitment but of a mixture of brutality, incompetence and disrespect.

“Education and Training” will not convert anybody, but results will. What you have to do to achieve results in the absence of consensus is work without fanfare on projects that only involve people who are already supporting the initiative.

Finding projects that provide tangible results and are entirely under the responsibility of supporters is a skill that good Lean consultants have. You conduct these projects with the minimum amount of publicity while in progress; once they are successful, you tell everybody.

That will convert many fence-sitters and a few antagonists. You then use the project participants to transfer the knowledge and skills they have just acquired to others.

Fast’s argument is centered on two employees named Elvis and Madonna. Elvis is tool and die maker with 30 years of experience, who openly refuses to participate; Madonna, the plant engineering manager and a foot-dragger.

If Elvis is a die-hard antagonist, you try to put him in a position where he can be useful without jeopardizing your Lean transformation. If he has 30 years with the company, he has only a few more years before retirement, and can spend them passing his skills to the next generation. And make it gratifying for him, with a raise and the rank of “master craftsman.” Show the next generation how their elders’ loyalty is being reciprocated by the company and how they are being treated with respect.

As for Madonna, perhaps she is right to consider that she is being sent on a wild goose chase. An audit of all bills of materials and routings may not be the right priority. Maybe, such an audit makes more sense if focused on the target areas of the pilot projects.

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