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Newsletter no.4
dec '12 - feb '13

One valuable mail, every 4 months
inspiring businesses with in-depth real-life cases

Logo business-improvement.euPositive energy helps to create a lasting lean culture

One of the most popular Dutch athletes at the London Olympics was sprinter Churandy Martina. Not because he won. He didn’t, he was 6th at the 100 metres, and 5th at the 200 metres. This results however, in two of the most popular Olympic disciplines, surely deserve praise.

After the 100 metres competition, Mr Martina was asked if he was disappointed that he didn’t win an Olympic medal. With a big smile on his face, he answered: “No, no, I am happy!” His enthusiasm and joy made him very popular in the Netherlands. Why? Because he made people feel good.

What can we learn from this? That enthusiasm gives people energy and that this is contagious. This is exactly the kind of energy you need to make people enthusiastic about lean.

It is well-known that to be successful with lean manufacturing you need not only tools like value stream mapping, 5S and Kanban, but also a cultural change. You need everybody’s help every day, to improve step by step, by applying standard problem solving methods. Most lean failures can be related to problems with this “people part” of lean.

To change the culture in a company is however not easy. Culture resembles a super tanker which can only change its course very slowly. “You cannot trade your company culture in, like you buy a new car,” state Jon Katzenbach, Ilona Steffen and Caroline Kronley in their article Cultural Change that Sticks in Harvard Business Review (july '12). Do not fight against the existing merits, they say, it is far better to work with and within the existing culture. In essence, their advice is to focus on what goes well, so that the people become proud again of their work. This immediately reminded me of Churandy Martina. First, positive energy should be generated. After this, it becomes possible to steer the company in the desired direction, by encouraging critical behavioural changes.

There is a method that converts negative energy into positive energy, which is called Appreciative Inquiry. A Leaf confectionary factory in Belgium applied this methodology to accomplish a lean transformation in the astonishingly short period of one year, as described in this newsletter. The new management team of Leaf discovered that the ability of the production workers to solve problems was not being developed. To boost the employees’ self-respect, the new managers started to ask questions like, “What are you proud of?” and “What makes you happy?” This not only generated a lot of positive energy, but it also gave the people the courage to think about lean breakthroughs!

Changing the company culture will help you not only to get lean, but also to stay that way. One of the most frequently mentioned examples in business literature is of course Toyota. In this newsletter, we discuss the book The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership of Jefrrey Liker and Gary Convis. According to these authors, the secret of Toyota is their leadership system: New leaders are developed continuously by experienced mentors or sensei.

Best regards, 
Dr Jaap van Ede, 
owner and editor-in-chief

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A. New articles:

1. Lean:  Positive energy brings about Lean transformation
    Case: Leaf

2. Lead & Change:  Getting and Staying Lean
    Book: The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership   
    Case: Toyota

3. Lead & Change :  The magic to say 'yes' to customers
    Book: Business at the speed of Now

Summaries of these articles you will find below. For more case descriptions, see our case-menu.

B. Summaries of the articles:

1. Lean:  Positive energy brings about Lean transformation
    Case: Leaf

During a dreamday, Leaf-employees presented their ideal factory in 2015
^ During a 'dreamday', Leaf-employees presented
   their ideal factory in 2015

Two years ago, the situation in the confectionary factory of Leaf was very worrisome. Regularly, delivery to the customers was late, there were quality problems, and there was a lot of waste. According to the managers the employees were to blame: they were said to be “incompetent”.

However, an entirely new management team proved the opposite!  
Negative energy was converted into positive energy, by way of Appreciative Inquiry. This method emphasizes current strengths, and expands those strengths later. The results are astounding: One year after everyone started to work together to achieve a Lean transformation, the factory has already become profitable again.

> more
2. Lead & Change:  Getting and Staying Lean
    Book: The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership   
    Case: Toyota

The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership shows how this company develops Lean leaders
^ The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership shows how
   this company develops Lean leaders

Many organizations have trouble sustaining lean manufacturing. Toyota is one of the few exceptions. According to Jeffrey Liker and Gary Convis in their book “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership”, their secret is their leadership system.

Toyota provides a nurturing but challenging environment, to ensure that new Lean leaders are developed continuously. This is not done by simple class room training. Leaders are coached on the job during their entire career, by experienced mentors or sensei, to continuously deepen and broaden their management skills.  Those skills are:

  1. Acting as a sensei themselves, which means improving processes and people at the same time. A Toyota leader does not force people to implement a pre-arranged solution, but helps, coaches, encourages and challenges them.
  2. Aligning local improvement efforts horizontally, to ensure that higher goals are accomplished.
  3. Aligning improvement efforts vertically, so that everybody contributes to the mission of the company.
What can other companies learn from Toyota’s ingenious mentor-mentee system? Below our findings, and the comments of Jeffrey Liker about that!

> more
3. Lead & Change :  The magic to say 'yes' to customers
    Book: Business at the speed of Now

John Bernard and cover of his book Business at the speed of Now
^ Author John Bernard and cover of his book
   Business at the speed of Now

In his book Business at the Speed of Now, John Bernard describes an engaging, transparent and real-time management system. Particularly interesting is the contribution of social media and cloud computing.

In a "now company", all employees know exactly their role in end-to-end business processes, keep score how well they are performing, and are allowed to make decisions autonomously. The result is a responsive organization, with the power and magic to say ‘yes’ to customers immediately!

Bernards ideas connect with a current management trend: Get rid of the barrier between thinkers (management) and doers (workforce). Even when you create a mission for your company every opinion counts, he states.

> more
C. Brief news

The latest news (also about new published articles in specialist journals) you will find on on our newspage. Visit our site on a regular basis!

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