Getting to the heart of Lean

June 30, 2015
in Lean

No one has to sell me on the concept of efficiency. I live and breathe it in my role as AVP, Central Operations, where our department goal for 2015 is to create 50 hours per day of capacity through continuous improvement processes. When I started my Greenbelt this past March, I thought, “You’re preaching to the converted, I’ve got this.”

Was I ever in for a surprise. It wasn’t until I learned the methodology behind Lean and worked through the first of three Greenbelt modules that I had the “Lean epiphany.”

During Lean Module 1- Waste reduction, my five teammates and I, who were from a variety of departments across First West Credit Union and its divisions, came together to solve or provide recommendations on a real problem facing the organization.

At first blush, it was difficult to ascertain the real issue that was causing the problem of a process in one of our departments not being readily adopted. Was it a change management issue? Was it a result of inadequate training or poor implementation of the change? Were employees simply not adopting the new process because they just didn’t like it?

Before we were to draw any conclusions, Lean methodology stipulates that you assess the processes’ “current state.” For the uninitiated, this involves documenting what you actually see and hear with your own eyes and ears—not how the process is supposed to work or was designed to work, but how it’s really performing today. Once you know how it’s working, you move on to the Five Whys: a funnel of questions to get to the root cause of the problem. In this particular case, this technique revealed several pain points all of which we may not have uncovered had we not done it.

Once we revealed the pain points, solving the problem was fairly straightforward. We utilized a tool called the Value Graph, which weighs the relative effort of an action verses the value gained. Through this, we determined quick and easy solutions to the problem. By implementing these quick hits, we were able to save the organization 223 hours per year. Not only do we save employee time on wasted administration functions, but we are also able to provide a better experience for both members and employees.

It was during this series of Greenbelt exercises that I had my aforementioned “ah-ha” moment. I realized that although I considered my approach to process improvements solid, there was definitely room for improvement by creating more rigour in the way I assess an issues current state and its root cause.

Following the Lean steps has also slowed me down (in a good way). I’m not as quick to recommend solutions, which means I spend more time in the present.

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