Never stop tracking: Why Lean success relies on constant measurement

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Continuous improvement means just that, track, measure, improve and implement. If you stop tracking your Lean implementation, you stop implementing Lean.

Lean is a process of continuous improvement. It is not a single project that brings about a fundamental change in your business. It is an evolving process that leads to greater and greater efficiencies over time.  Lean is best seen as the aggregation of marginal gains. When you implement a Lean programme, you are not looking for that golden nugget that can revolutionise your business, instead, you’re looking to improve lots of processes by 1% and work with the results you achieve.

The aggregation of marginal gains

The aggregation of marginal gains is something that has become well known through sport, not industry.  It’s associated most closely with head of the Team Sky cycling team, Sir Dave Brailsford .  He attributes his success at revolutionising British cycling performance to a certain culture and way of operating.  In an interview with BBC Breakfast, he said that it was “important to understand the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’.  Put simply….how small improvements in a number of different aspects of what we do can have a huge impact to the overall performance of the team.”

This is a philosophy that we can apply to Lean. Instead of looking at our entire business and focusing on a single thing, we look to make small improvements in a range of different areas and measure the improvements that they deliver - which places a great deal of emphasis on tracking and monitoring.

Track, measure, repeat

Two things are important when you are on a lean journey: measure the current state with a metric or metrics (not too many) that is relevant, understood by the team and continue measuring it to show the improvement and the ROI of the lean programme. But the world moves on so keep the metrics relevant.

The first metric(s) should be immediately linkable to the overarching strategy – even if this is via a number of layers. For example, corporate strategy: generate cash (metric = £), business unit strategy: sell excess buildings (metric = £), operations strategy: move warehouse function into main factory footprint (metric = action plan implementation), assembly area strategy: move from 4 single product lines to 2 multi-product lines (metric = action plan implementation), Rapid Continuous improvement event targets/metrics: generate 100sq m of space in factory (metric = sq m cleared).

However, as time goes on the priorities and strategies may change and the metric becomes stale.

Review lean metrics routinely but at a minimum annually, usually linked with the strategy deployment process. Keep the folks informed about why the priorities and metrics have changed but also make sure that if the metric has a rolling as opposed to a digital “done/not done” business impact (eg margin) that it is not forgotten.

Get with the programme

Knowing what to measure and how to select the key performance indicators and metrics you should and could use is essential. By developing a solid knowledge of lean techniques, tools and measurements you can implement a continuous change programme that can be effectively measured and efficiently implemented.  EEF’s Lean Academy training course provides you with all of the skills, tools and information that you need to implement a lean programme and maintain and sustain that programme through measurement and reporting over time.

Author

This person has now left EEF. Please contact us on 0808 168 1874 or email us at enquiries@eef.org.uk if you have any questions.

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