“Lean – my employees do that” | Wiegand’s Watch

This is a translation of Bodo Wiegand’s latest newsletter, about Lean in Germany:

I visited a company earlier this week and, as always, first went through the production floor.

The Lean manager led me through the facility. On the first white board he told me proudly, what information is collected and discussed every day. It was professionally designed, clean and clear. For me personally, it was a bit too much information, and not well suited for communication with employees.

But good. He was euphoric. During the tour we passed several boards. I naturally curious: what is experienced here? – Already we were facing a data cemetery from two weeks ago. How could that be? “Yes,” he muttered, “in some areas, it just doesn’t work.” The manager in charge happened to pass by. Of course I immediately asked him why the board was not maintained. “Oh! Again! I need to build a head of steam again.”  We then said goodbye and I summed it up for myself:

  1. For two weeks, he had not noticed that the board had not been updated.
  2. Therefore, he must not have attended the morning meetings.

So he is not interested. He does not believe in the whole thing. And he is not a role model for his employees. And therefore, he cannot expect his employees to take it seriously.

In the conversation with the general manager, I was curious.

“How was it?” he asked, and I answered truthfully, telling him that he had a leadership problem, and therefore also an implementation problem.

He was amazed. “And you have noticed this in a tour?” Then I listed my observations: “First, your leaders apparently tolerate problems with order and cleanliness, and even in security-related areas. Second, some of your leaders on the shop floor don’t participate in Lean daily management.

“But this is precisely the problem I wanted to discuss with you. How do I get the leadership to join in? I have discussed it with all of them, and made it part of their agreed targets. It is their job.”

And there I had him. I talked to him about executives setting examples, and about his own role.

It was not easy to explain to him that it must start with him, that he must give up fifteen minutes to the morning meeting every day, and have his direct reports explain what worked and what didn’t. Only then can he expect the leaders to be present at the board, and to take the daily management of the shopfloor seriously. His excuses and counter-arguments were numerous, but after two hours he had come around.

But did the morning meeting really become part of his many important appointments?