Lean: The Missing Piece is Behavior
For many years the lean champions who have been through our Performance Management classes have all said the same thing, “This is the missing piece.” Most of them had experienced the same problem -- after a short time, interest and enthusiasm for the initiative began to wane. They found themselves prodding, pleading, and even threatening in order to keep things going. Managers began to question why the initial gains were slipping or in some cases why they disappeared altogether. No initiative can be implemented or sustained without behavior. I have said many times that every organization should be constantly “leaning.” It should be built into the organizational DNA – the way they do everything.
Why would any company not want to eliminate waste? The problem is that when exposed to the “lean” training, employees are excited about it because it is positively reinforcing to learn new things and to have a change from routine work offered by the training session. However, if the reinforcement is novelty, it only lasts a very short time. After you have done one or two projects, everything new is old again. Unless you build positive reinforcers into the lean process, it becomes like every other initiative that began with a promise but ended with a question. Without an understanding of reinforcement, a worthy initiative frequently ends in a premature death.