lean principles

Did you know the average American worker is wasting more than 20 hours a week - Every. Single. Work Week? If you're looking to improve the way that you and your employees work, you need to think about lean principles and how they could work for you. There are ways to improve efficiency throughout your company and if you implement these principles you’ll improve your workflow.

Here are five ways to implement lean principles within your organization.

1. Get Rid of Egos

One of the most important ways to fix your company culture while also implementing lean principles is to focus on your customers. When you provide value to your customers, you ensure that you get the most out of your employees and get the highest response from your clients.

One way to build or strengthen a service-oriented culture is to first build a collaborative team who support one another. Incorporating huddle rooms or collaboration areas within your work environment allows employees to get to know one another and develop a natural camaraderie. Honest relationships encourage cooperation instead of trying to outdo each other - and allow customer service to bloom.

When the quality of the service is higher than the cost, your customers know they're getting good value. Stay laser focused on giving to your customers and you'll have one of the most important lean principles down pat.

As efficiencies in the world drive products to become higher quality and less expensive, your products and services can't be any different. The focus of your culture must shift from outdoing one another to working collaboratively to give more to your customers each time. There's no room for egos when your goal is giving the most to your customers!

2. Get an Outside Perspective

When you're looking to improve efficiency within your organization, seeking an outside perspective is the best course to get an objective assessment. When you're in the trenches of getting work done it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Processes, once thought to be efficient, evolve with time and employee turnover and might not be as efficient as what you believe.

An outside perspective sheds new light on an approach and questions why processes exist, justifying their value. Hiring a subject matter expert ensures you can leverage efficiencies they know are effective. You also benefit from the knowledge they have of working with many other companies like yours.   

Freeing up some of your own time by allowing someone else to do the operational work allows you to focus on more strategic initiatives within your company - like bringing in more business.

3. Get Rid of Clutter

Once you've taken a hard look at your workflow, you'll have an intimate view of how your process functions. Any step that isn't creating increased value for your customers should be eliminated. You should insist on the same value for your employees from your work space.

Are the functions who work most closely together sitting near each other? Can employees move seamlessly throughout your space without obstacles? Are employees working ergonomically correct?  Space planning organizes the layout of the office, considers how furniture and functions work together and most effectively accommodates the needs of employees and visitors. When creative planning techniques are used in organizing a space, studies show employee engagement, client retention and innovation are boosted.

Once an effective floor plan has been identified, the work space comes to life with furniture, equipment and company branding, and eliminates the clutter that is slowing you down.

 4. Gather Data

What makes logical sense doesn't always return the ideal result. Sometimes, something that seems like it should improve a process doesn't actually measure up. Evidence is key to ensuring that you improve your process and end with a tangible result.

When you've come up with a process, you need to test it and collect real data on it. Start by identifying where you’d like to eliminate errors; set goals about what you're trying to fix and document how you're aiming to do it. Track each element of the process so that you have a reference to measure against.

You want to ensure that you not only eliminate errors but that you eliminate those errors in way that that doesn’t create a new problem! Seek out some proof to ensure the improvements you're trying to make are occurring as you planned. Beware of unplanned x-factors that sometimes trick us into seeing the results we're looking for.

5. Reward and Empower Employees

When you're looking to make changes to your process, look to your employees, suggests Leesa Schipani, Partner at Kardas Larson Human Resources Consulting firm. “You have people on your team who are invested in your organization’s success. Ask for volunteers to be a part of the team working to improve workflow with the customer in mind.” Creating opportunities for your teams to solve problems increases job satisfaction and retention.

To get started, Schipani advocates for asking the team their thoughts around improving the process and have them generate all ideas.  Have the team evaluate the ideas presented by showing a link to lean principles. Pilot the ideas that have merit and empower your team to make the changes. Your job is to remove obstacles and express support for the changes throughout your company and with your customers.

Recognize the team for their accomplishments. Nothing improves morale like being noticed by company leaders. You don’t have to incur any type of expense as most employees are looking for a simple thank you and sharing their accomplishments with others. You’ll find that more employees will want to get involved with process improvement.

Lean Principles Are a Rewarding Challenge

Implementing lean principles at your company isn’t always easy, but is a challenge that will deliver high value to your organization.. The rewards that you get from these principles will be measurable and you'll find both customer and employee satisfaction will improve as well. With commitment, company culture will perform at its peak.

If you’re ready to implement lean principles to improve your workplace, check out our article to learn how to link your ideas to your business’ strategy and key metrics.

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