5 reasons why Lean transformation can fail

Jitendra Badiani

Implementing a lean transformation within a company comes with a multitude of challenges. In the face of these challenges, it is easy for some business leaders to abandon the transformation midway, or not maintain the improvements identified in a Lean transformation.  This lack of commitment leads to employees reverting to old ways of working and ending up as a costly mistake. Listed are some of the reasons that can cause such a failure:

  1. Lack of support throughout the organization: A successful Lean transformation requires buy-in from all levels of the organization. A top-down approach where management imposes new rules and ways of working does not work since employees do not buy-in to the methodology which makes sustaining improvements impossible. A bottom-up approach can also lead to failure since successful implementation requires significant investment in labor and without buy-in from the management, the Lean transformation is bound to fail. A successful implementation involves gaining buy-in from all employees throughout the organization.
  2. Initial failures: For companies implementing Lean for the first time, one of the most common reasons for abandoning the transformation midway is if the first project or improvement does not deliver expected results. Therefore, it is essential to select the right area to pilot/start the transformation. If a company focuses on the most challenging area to begin the Lean journey, they can potentially face difficulties leading the entire organization to reject Lean. Instead, it is essential to identify and celebrate quick wins at the beginning of the transformation and using these wins to motivate the entire workforce to showcase the value of this transformation.
  3. Concerns about using the Lean methodology in a specific industry: Since Lean methods originated in manufacturing, a common misconception is that these tools are only suited to the manufacturing industry. However, the principles behind Lean can be utilized to solve business challenges and improve flow within almost any industry. Any industry that has defined processes for working, provide a service to a customer, or generate any value can use these tools to improve their performance by increasing productivity and reducing costs.
  4. Data Issues: One of the most significant challenges for improvements via Lean methodology is issues within the data being currently captured or a complete lack of requisite data. For example, if there is manually recorded being utilized in many of the processes, it is difficult to make sure that the data has been consistently recorded therefore some of the improvements that might be suggested using that data could be misleading. Another issue can occur if the data is skewed due to human interactions and assumptions or the data has been incorrectly captured. It is important that these considerations are considered to prevent the failure of a lean transformation.
  5. Priority focus on processes vs people: It is important to keep in mind that in order to have the transformation be successful and improvements be sustained, the focus should not only be on implementing new processes but also on the people within the organization. Sustainable change is always driven by people and if there isn’t a focus on developing the requisite skills within the organization, a Lean transformation will not be able to achieve the gains that might have been otherwise possible.

 

Focused Improvement Consulting specializes in helping companies navigate a lean transformation process through an organization by working with stakeholders within the company to make sure these common reasons for failure are avoided. We work on building a culture of continuous improvement within a company which can lead to a successful implementation. For further information on how we can help your business through a lean transformation, please reach out at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

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