The COVID-19 pandemic is putting pressure on businesses to take quick action and confront current economic disruption. However, reacting too swiftly with short-term fixes could put your business at risk.
While you’re called to immediate response, it’s more important than ever to take time to practice critical thinking and adapt to the pandemic’s obstacles as you prepare for recovery and future growth when it subsides.
Using lean methodologies to address these new challenges could help your leaders assess your business as a cohesive whole—so that you bring forward enduring solutions to drive and sustain your operations well beyond this moment of disruption.
This approach can provide the steady direction you need to weather profound change, such as increasing productivity with your current resources or responding quickly to market shifts with new products or processes.
Below, we explore how lean methodologies can help your business develop continuous improvement strategies to sustain, and even prosper, during these challenging times.
What is Lean, and How Does It Work?
Lean is a management and operations improvement approach that emphasizes value to the customer by focusing on quality, safety, efficiency, cost, and performance.
Developed by Toyota to help its auto manufacturing operations survive and grow after World War II, lean has since been applied across virtually every industry, including discrete manufacturing, process manufacturing, health care, and service industries.
During lean workshops, your organization’s leaders are coached to approach your organization holistically and unleash the potential of your best resource: the frontline employees who actually create the value—or products and services—you deliver to customers.
Through a stop-the-line mentality originally introduced in auto-production lines, lean helps employees identify issues early in a process so they don’t continue on and impact the subsequent stages.
Through lean, business leaders discover how to create a culture of kaizen—or continuous improvement—that develops and enables frontline employees to solve problems. Kaizen also aligns the entire organization to relentlessly improve its processes.
To do so, leaders are encouraged to make decisions outside of meeting rooms and actually go to the areas where work is done in order to:
- Observe and understand how processes work
- Identify what resources are needed to overcome barriers
- Develop a response that’s realistic, tested, and sustainable
Empowering Frontline Employees
Employees will learn to be results-focused by designing solutions to identified problems that help eliminate waste, errors, and defects in your processes.
This happens by training your staff to:
- Deeply understand their work processes
- Make problems visible
- Understand root causes of identified problems
- Develop and test countermeasures for problems
- Create standard work that forms the foundation for ongoing improvement
Establishing employee trust should always be a priority, but demonstrating an investment in your employees and their insights can be especially appreciated during challenging times and could help motivate staff to keep the business agile and productive.
What Are the Benefits of Lean?
By allowing leadership to focus on strategic priorities, alignment, and developing people rather than solving daily operations problems, management lines of sight become more transparent.
This supports your organization to envision and facilitate improved processes and promote learning for sustained success—not just the immediate present—while achieving higher quality, faster delivery, lower costs, increased efficiency, and more.
Lean methodologies can bring systemic and lasting benefits. A lean approach can enable your organization to reduce costs and enhance values in demonstrable ways by:
- Boosting production capacity using the same resources
- Increasing quality and productivity
- Enhancing equipment uptime and efficiency
- Improving employee safety, teamwork, development, and morale
- Reducing and eliminating wasteof materials, time, knowledge, lead time, and resources
In addition, lean can help your organization strengthen structures, behaviors, and practices that enable you to sustain improvement gains by:
- Bringing disciplined focus to strategic priorities and effectively deploying them throughout the organization
- Creating visibility to enable effective management, decentralizing decision-making, and clarifying the status and alignment of strategic priorities and operational processes and production
- Radically innovating to respond to shifts in market conditions and develop new products, capabilities, processes, and facilities
- Enhance organizational learning using fact-based methodologies and rapid cycles of improvement
- Enhancing support functions including human resources, finance and accounting, supply chain management, and more
Sharpened and Aligned Strategy
By applying lean principles, your organization can narrow the focus of its objectives, assess gaps in your existing processes, and provide a methodical way to address responses to shifts in market demand.
Lean can also be highly effective when it comes to targeted improvement and assessing specific areas that need support. This can be especially helpful for starting proof of concepts or launching unusually prominent and visible initiatives.
We’re Here to Help
To learn more about how lean methodologies can help during times of disruption, contact your Moss Adams professional.
For regulatory updates, strategies to help cope with subsequent risk, and possible steps to bolster your workforce and organization, please see the following resources: