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Jun 2, 2011

Working Through a Lean Transformation.

Although a lean transformation is good for business, employees, and the economy, going through the process can be an emotional roller coaster for any organization. Embarking on a lean transformation often means a lot of change taking place throughout a company and this may be a very difficult time for everybody during the initial implementation phase. However, over the long term, these changes will bring positive benefits to everyone in the organization. It can be a very tough time, especially for the business owner and/or management team who are involved in the day to day decisions as their organization is going through a transformation.

During a lean transformation, it's important for an improvement team to delve into and investigate the business systems and how they are performing. In doing this, they will determine how to improve the business processes, but it's important to realize that these activities will have a direct impact on employees and their work environment. In a business that has been under the same management team for many years, it's not unusual to find that their most valuable resource, which is their employees, are not being utilized in the most effective manner. During further investigations, the improvement team will find there are some employees that have only one job function or a job function that may be unnecessary as a consequence of the transformation. How does a management team deal with this situation?

The management team and their employees must collaborate and work together to deal with these issues during a lean transformation. It will all depend on whether the employees are capable of being cross-trained to do multiple job functions (providing that it is economically sound to do this), which is the best and the most effective practice. However, there may be some employees who cannot be integrated into the improved processes, and it may get to the point where a decision has to be taken to let some employee(s) go.

Although for most management teams this is always a difficult and deeply emotional decision which is often perceived to be an injustice by other employees, it's very important to get them to understand the broader impact of this strategy. It is always better for any business and its employees when a management team makes these types of difficult decisions early in the transformation. If employees see that people are receiving a pink slip during a lean transformation, this will give them a negative perception of lean, and it can be difficult to continue to get their buy-in. It is important to communicate to employees, so they understand that it was a business decision to reduce the workforce, not a lean decision.

For this very reason, a management team must step back and get a complete view the whole business and not just focus on the individual functions or employees. It's a good business decision to hire a lean consultant who can create and develop a lean transformation plan and then help to implement it. In doing this it reduces the stress and the learning curve for everyone as they work through the lean transformation, and it keeps emotions out of the equation. Lean business practices are still a good idea for everyone to consider in this day and age!