I know from personal experience that when a shop is run by multi-generational family members (dads, sons, daughters, aunts, grandpas, etc) that day-to-day activities can be very challenging. Certain members take disagreements personally when “it’s just business.” So now, in addition to the day-to-day challenges, let’s go another level and talk about instilling change.
Before changing anything think of why you need to change. Are customers not happy anymore? Do projects or approvals take too long? Are systems antiquated? Is there confusion in the workplace? You need to be really clear as to how the change is going to affect your company for the better. Ideally, the change should positively impact your bottom line. Greater productivity equals more time saved equals more money saved. Make sure this is true!
Following are four tips on how to successfully install a lean program into a once-rigid family-owned shop.
- Listen & brainstorm with family members and employees. Lean is about respecting each person’s unique experience and perspective as it applies to serving the customer. It is not about pushing a top-down, ready-made idea onto an existing workforce. Effective communication is key.
- Strive to understand the process as a separate, well-proven theory. Lean has been around for over 60 years and so it is a well-proven theory. As you and your family flush out the details of how lean can be applied to your shop, strive to separate the lean techniques from the individual. As the group is identifying wasteful practices, clearly separate the activity from the individual so the individual doesn’t feel personally attacked as a “wasteful” or “inefficient” worker.
- Don’t go too fast. On average, it takes 2-5 years for a company to adapt to a lean culture. A lean culture is one in which everybody understands the lean principles and embraces why the company wants to adapt to this continuous improvement route. It will take time. Keep communication open, create goals and milestone checkpoints, and be patient with those that are resisting change. Nurture positive thinking.
- Recognize Technology Bottlenecks. For those of you that are techno-savvy, it might be tempting to install the newest manufacturing software and get everyone on board because it’s so efficient and it “makes things so easy.” Ha! Not everyone is going to share this opinion. Before installing any new communication or technology software, arrange for an independent trainer to come in and explain the system. Pick apart the manual and really make sure this is the right fit for your company. Don’t forget that projects deemed as continuous improvement must be agreed upon by all people involved.
It’s all about inclusion. Change is difficult for everyone involved. The last thing a person needs is to feel alienated from his/her own shop as changes are taking place. Take your time, be patient, and know that this change is meant for the betterment of the company and serving the customer.