In 2005 Toyota received over 600,000 improvement suggestions from employees in Japan alone. That’s over 11 improvements per employee each year. Companies practicing 2 Second Lean are known to create over 4000 improvements within their first two years, and that’s with as few as 70 employees making an average of 29 improvements per employee per year.
Clearly there’s something significant about taking action when it comes to lean success.
Daily kaizen (simple daily improvements) are central to creating a lean culture. It’s the means by which every employee can make a contribution every day to the future of the company and the joy of their own workspace.
However, I decided to write on this topic of taking action because unfortunately many companies practicing lean are not taking action.
I’ve come to realize this while getting to know companies practicing Paul Aker’s 2 Second Lean philosophy, which was recently reinforced by author and lean consultant Dan Markovitz on LinkedIn.
Unlike these lean maniacs who are teaching even new hires to make 2 second improvements their first week of hire, many other companies I’ve known spend considerable time planning a strategy to become lean. It can take them months just to formulate a plan that has the buy-in of management. Within that same time frame their 2 Second Lean neighbors will have already created hundreds of daily improvements and involved the participation of every employee!
It comes down to your view of lean: is lean complicated, or is lean simple?
If you view lean as a complicated business strategy, you are likely to be consumed (and overwhelmed) with developing a sophisticated lean strategy to transform your business, involving all the brainpower of engineers, consultants, and management to get it right.
On the other hand, if you view lean as something very simple, there’s no reason why you cannot get started right away and involve your people immediately.
The emphasis of lean industry is one that complicates lean. It sets the bar very high for anyone to get started transforming their business. What Paul Akers started is very unorthodox. He sets the bar is set so low that even a 2 second improvement is cause for celebration.
Regardless of whether you do lean Paul’s way or the industry way (whatever that is), creating a culture of taking action is essential. Let’s remind ourselves that even Toyota is gathering millions of improvement suggestions every year, and 99% of them are accepted and implemented.
There are other ways, but it’s helpful to pay attention to the mechanism of creating change at your company. If it’s challenging or intimidating for operators to make changes, they are not going to take action. A helpful read to consider is our article on the 4 Requirements Before You Empower Anyone.