How to Get Buy-In for Lean Changes

June 03, 2014

by Kelly McDaniel

In a recent post, Laurel Suchecki examined the cost of disorganization in the workplace and how it can adversely affect productivity and morale. She made the case for 5S as a way to combat the creep of workplace entropy.  As with any Lean initiative, though, a successful 5S effort requires the workforce to embrace change, and that’s easier said than done.

It’s the rare individual that enjoys change.  As a result, very few businesses can pursue organizational change without at least some measure of resistance from within.  The people who must drive Lean (or other) improvement initiatives and make sure they stick need buy-in from everyone participating in order to have success.

How to Get Buy-In for your Lean Efforts

One of the primary issues in any organizational development project is the need for the individuals involved to accept and embrace change.  In many cases, that change will be perceived as a direct challenge to their sense of ownership.  The changes associated with Lean projects will most likely be:

  • structural – organizational changes, modified workspaces
  • technological – new processes, new equipment
  • cultural – new communication paths, new continuous improvement mindset

Don’t Convince, Enlist

It’s a misconception that the first step is to convince the players involved to accept change.  Instead, we enlist them to help author that change.  Authorship leads to ownership, and by involving them in the process, asking for their input, and really listening to both their ideas and their concerns, they will have a real sense of participating in the change.  That will make it much easier for them to view this as something not only nonthreatening, but positive.

Consider Personality Types

Personality type plays a big role in this acceptance of transition, and it’s no surprise that the more creative and flexible personalities tend to handle change with greater ease.  This is due in large part to their ability to imagine what could be, and it makes them outstanding candidates for the role of Lean champion.

Increase Your Buy-In Odds with a Capable Champion

With a capable Lean champion, whether it’s someone from within the organization or a third-party facilitator, you increase the odds of employee buy-in.  This individual will not only be able to head off potential interpersonal conflicts, but they can mediate the discussions that need to take place.  Kaizen, 5S, and other projects will require a fair amount of open and honest conversation, and a champion who can lead that discussion—particularly among peers—will make the process run much more smoothly.

Strike the Right Balance

Remember that the best Lean champions also need a balance of open-mindedness and “street credibility.” It’s natural for the disparate members of a team to think and organize differently, and a strong champion will navigate those differences with objectivity and expertise.  The former is an important part of motivating the rank-and-file, while the latter enables them to speak up for the group if the need arises.

Choose the Willing

Remember that buy-in begins with the champion.  Too often, an organization will point to someone and say “you’re it” without much thought as to how this person feels about the impending changes.  Whenever possible, seek a Lean champion who wants that role.  And don’t be afraid to look beyond the obvious.  Rather than assigning the shop floor manager who already has a hard time motivating his staff, consider someone who hasn’t had a leadership role yet but shows potential and may be eager for an opportunity to prove themselves.

Invest Time in Team Building Exercises

One excellent way to help teams develop is to engage in one or more transitional/team-building exercises.  The best of these are both experiential and intended to increase empathy.  They may present the participants with a scenario or situation that makes them understand the emotions others do when they are feeling insecure, being praised, suffering under micromanagement, or—worst of all—being ignored.

Anticipate the Road Ahead

Keep in mind that there will be bumps in the road.  In any worthwhile change effort, you will face resistance.  When the time comes to enforce discipline, be open and assertive.  Make it clear when resistive behavior is impeding progress, and state the consequences of continuing noncompliance.  Let the players involved decide if they want to succeed or fail, and then follow through if your expectations aren’t met.  But in all cases, treat people like the adults they are.

Contact Continuous Improvement

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reach New Levels of Success

When properly led, 5S, Kaizen, and similar Lean events can lead your business to new levels of organization, productivity, and growth.  CONNSTEP’s seasoned Lean practitioners are ready to help you manage these changes and realize the benefits of continuous improvement.

CONNSTEP solved a huge problem for us and helped us bring our delivery rate to 100%. As a direct result of that, we have been awarded with an increase in business which, ultimately, will also benefit (our supplier) Har-Conn.”

CT manufacturer Pegaasus

Chris DePentima

CEO, Pegasus Manufacturing Inc.

“I see great value in the new experiences and perspectives CONNSTEP brings to our business, at reasonable prices. They’re not like consultants, they’re like partners in the business – willing to roll up their sleeves and help.”

AGRussell logo

Mark Burzynski

President, Arthur G Russell Co

“CONNSTEP has proved to be a tremendous resource for ESI. CONNSTEP has helped us to adapt to today’s marketplace and remain a quality minded, competitive global player. Our ISO/TS16949 implementation process was efficient and rewarding. I look forward to our future projects with CONNSTEP.”

esi CT manufacturer

Ron Delfini

President, Engineering Specialties Inc.

“CONNSTEP worked with FuelCell Energy to educate and facilitate Lean initiatives and to help meet our needs to establish an overall production improvement plan. This plan has been utilized over a period of time as a ‘guiding light’ to spur numerous improvements that dramatically reduced our product cost.”

Tom Lucas

Manager, Fuel Cell Energy

“CONNSTEP is a valuable partner to Hologic, providing the expertise and ‘outside eyes’ everyone needs to keep their continuous improvement on track. We are now well-positioned on a dynamic growth path and look forward to a long-term relationship with CONNSTEP.”

Greg Safarik

VP Manufacturing Operations, Hologic

“Our experience working with CONNSTEP has brought us benefits we never expected. It’s a great team to work with!”

Bruce Wheeler

VP of Operations, Metal Finishing Technologies Inc.

“The goals of the team were to reduce manufacturing lead-time, reduce floor space utilized, and increase worker productivity. All the goals were met. CONNSTEP helped us to better compete.”

Tornik CT manufacturer

Dan Rubbo

General Manager, Tornik LLC

“The Business Growth Program is working well for us. We enhanced our website following the meetings to improve our SEO and become more visible to search engines. The segment on negotiating …  promoted changes in our thinking and improved how we interact with customers. The mentoring between sessions was helpful in boosting our progress.”

CT manufacturer Colonial Spring

Bill Lathrop

President, Colonial Spring Co.

Prev Next