How to empower employees to fully participate in Lean initiatives

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Lean is one of the most powerful frameworks for systematically improving productivity across an organisation. However, continuous improvement cannot just be a top-down initiative. Teams and employees must take ownership of proposing and implementing initiatives that boost efficiency, quality and value.

Corporate leaders can create policies and a working environment that empower employees to fully participate in Lean.


Create a Skills Matrix

A Skills Matrix helps companies identify the key skills needed to operate effectively and efficiently. This matrix often identifies where cross-training could help create a more flexible, nimble workforce that can respond to skills shortages and shifting skills needs.

The more employees are able to work in and with different business units and in new roles, the more silos will be broken down to improve communication and facilitate more realistic, cross-organisational ideas for improvement.

Additionally, Lean training across all business levels and units helps fully maximise productivity results.  This training is most effective when it includes bespoke coaching in the use of Lean techniques.

For Lean or technical training, it is important to keep training records up to date and regular reviews of training effectiveness are carried out.

Boundaries, not roadblocks

Managers and teams need guidance on their authority and accountability when it comes to Lean, but they shouldn’t feel their improvement ideas are stymied by red tape. Encourage teams to have regular, formal gatherings where efficiency and productivity ideas are proposed, discussed and progressed. There should be a defined budget, but authority for expenditure on process improvements are delegated to teams.

Embed improvements into policy and procedure

When an employee or team has implemented a successful improvement, ensure they receive proper kudos. And to make sure this improvement is made permanent and passed throughout the organisation, update relevant policies and procures (such as Standard Operating Procedures and Visual Works instructions).

No matter how committed executives are to Lean, its ultimate success will be determined on the ground. Make sure your teams feel empowered to improve.

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