How do I measure the success of a Lean Journey?

On the surface this question has a simple answer - have you improved your throughput / turnover in your business for the same amount of time and effort?  That is the measurement that indicates better productivity and better business performance. Many experts will be getting out calculators and working out how to measure the flow of the business, how long it takes to achieve a specific step in a process or even the time for a whole process.  All of these are useful and notable measures

Improved outcomes and delivery are also commonly measured attributes that are used to measure the effectiveness of the performance of the business. This brings in the assumption of all the improvement work within the different teams are all contributing to the overall success.  This then highlights useful measures such as Delivery on Time and Lead Times.  

It won’t come to any surprise that I have a slightly different slant to all of this. Creating a culture of improvement, establishing a mindset throughout a business is not as straightforward as counting widgets through a factory, number of calls answered per hour or how many satisfied customers served during a day or week.

But for those who truly want to lead an organisation into a Lean journey will quickly learn the outcomes are not simply identified on the bottom line of profitability.  If the approach is strongly entrenched in the respect of people, then measurements around team or staff engagement are critical.  In more recent times, this could also stretch out to the wellness of staff - stress and Health & Safety can also be considered as contributing factors to a successful Lean journey.

Just look at engagement, a critical factor for a successful Lean implementation.  There are many ways to increase and work on engagement.  Samar reached out to me recently to share his thoughts on what leadership can do to improve staff engagement.  There are a massive amount of ideas, many of them I would advocate.  But how do you measure the success of these? The number of people involved in the activities, maybe.  Or take a regular measure of the staff engagement - there are a number of ways to do this

How many times as a business leader are you asked to sort out a problem, constantly being pulled into firefighting a particular issue. With an empowered team, this becomes less and less through Lean Thinking.  This is for two reasons - first, they are empowered.  Empowered to sort out the mistake, knowing whatever decision they make, they have the support of leadership.  Secondly, the team is constantly finding ways to eliminate the causes of the mistakes.  The flare ups occur less frequently or they are not as significant.  This allows the whole business to use the people to the maximum effect.  Using our skills and knowledge where it best adds value is one of the 8 Wastes of Lean.

Improving business performance is certainly one high level measure.  This is useful for the leadership but less interesting to different teams. The true measures of success is that teams will identify what measures are important to them.  As a leader you will need to help the different teams to make the link their measures with organisational level indicators.

This is when I sit back and focus on what we are trying to achieve.  Creating a culture where people feel valued, engaged and are excited about doing an excellent job.  A workplace where people are motivated to improve their performance everyday.  This is where I solely focus on the teams.  Keeping it simple, measure the number of improvements each week for the team.  Big or small improvements, it doesn’t really matter.  How engaged are the different teams with their visual boards, I take an informal approach here and look at the amount of different handwriting on a board - this tells me a lot about engagement.

It is not all about the formal measurements, think about the people aspect of Lean. You will find that it is a blend of quantitative and qualitative measures that will indicate if your Lean journey is a success or not.

The important aspect is to start measuring what is important to you and the team and keep on measuring it.  Make it visible with regular updates - who has seen team boards with information from months or even years back, I have!  Keep telling your team how the work they are doing is helping the company to improve.  Feedback and communication is a critical element of measurement.


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