Monday Morning Message on Lean – Change – September 27, 2010

September 27, 2010

“Nothing endures but change.”- Heraclitus


I was thinking about this quote as we have moved into the fall season. It was inevitable being in the Midwest that the weather starts to change and how it is becoming cooler out. It seems like we just got out of the blazing 900+F heat and high humidity; the kind of repressive heat where you don’t feel like doing anything. Now, we have to consider turning the heat back on and putting on sweaters. Why should I be so shocked? This happens every year right about this time.

I started to think how this applies to some companies pursuing Lean. They go along trying to make improvements at the same time trying to serve their customers all while the economy is slow and then – wham, the season changes. I was talking with an HR manager at a company recently and we were talking about their Lean initiatives. A few months ago he told me that they couldn’t work on any Lean projects because business was too slow. They couldn’t afford to have people working on things that didn’t bring in revenue for the company. He told me now they are too busy with work and don’t have time to work on Lean projects. So when is it the right time? He joked and said probably at the inflection point of not being busy and being busy. Unfortunately, that is the wrong answer. It is called “continuous improvement”, not “once in a while improvement when we’re not too busy.” I run into this all the time – when times are slow companies don’t want to use resources for improvement. When things are good they don’t have the time. The truth is you have to always be pursuing improvement. When things are down, this is the perfect time to prepare for when things pick-up. You can be ahead of the curve and your competition. When things are going gangbusters you probably could use the extra capacity or need to solve a quality or service problem. So the right time is all the time. “Nothing endures but change.”

Let me know your thoughts of when it is the right time to pursue Lean.

Thanks – Tony

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