People come first

What is Lean for you?

Many answers pour in: cost reduction (wrong answer!), customer satisfaction (not false), operational efficiency (certainly) …

What we believe at Operae Partners is that Lean aims to improve employee’s skills. As a result, deadlines and quality will be improved, customer satisfaction achieved, and costs reduced.

In Lean, people come first.

We believe it because Toyota’s CEO says so, and even said it again during his last world convention (2020 Toyota World Convention). In addition, they say that they “build people before they build cars”.

In short: better people will build better products.

So okay, people come first. However, what does this have to do with Jidoka, Just in Time and all the exciting things we talk about in this blog?

As a reminder, Lean is (more than) inspired by Toyota’s methods, the famous TPS – TOYOTA PRODUCTION SYSTEM that is simply represented here by the Toyota House:

  1. The objective of Lean – the house roof – is the bottom line, the ultimate goal: customer satisfaction. 

Quality, deadline, cost… the famous triptych dear to project managers, you might say. Of course, but as we say in our company (and at Toyota): Quality First, but Security always. Finally, even before dealing with customer satisfaction, we check that our employees can work safely. We are therefore primarily interested in our employees, our lifeblood.

  1. This objective is supported by 2 fundamental approaches of Lean and which are very specific to it:
  • Jidoka is the ability to deal with the defect when it happens rather than at the end of the chain, or even when we receive a complaint (come to our next lean workshop to understand its usefulness). It is certainly a relevant goal. Except that behind this principle lies the requirement that we place on managers towards their employees: this principle requires that management be extremely mobilized since each defect stops the production chain (see here). Thus, the hierarchy should not be considered as a chain of command but as a chain of support for the employees. Once again, the employee is at the center of a subject that seemed to be solely focused on production.
  • Just In Time (JIT), which focuses on lead time, the time between order and delivery for the customer. JIT is also and above all a coordination and teamwork tool. By taking an interest in lead time, we can identify where things get stuck, which teams are not optimally coordinated, and we work on this. Thus, we are interested in the employees, in improving their work with their peers, their colleagues, their supports.

3. Finally, this house is based on a foundation around taking control of one’s work environment. This foundation requires that employees’ problems be solved (kaizen), that they do not have machines or information systems that break down (TPM), and that they be given the means to improve their work environment (5S). In short: that they are taken seriously. This is about mutual trust between management and employees.

So (not so much) hidden behind this production system is how the company puts itself at the service of the employees. People come first.

So, if you are fundamentally convinced that your gold mine, your wealth, is your employees, do Lean! (And call us!).

Article by Elodie Atlan, translated by Grégoire Giraud-Rochon

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