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What are you going to change now?

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Operations Excellence by Sepp Gmeiner
Sepp Gmeiner is a partner with Lignum Consulting. For feedback, questions and/or suggestions please email
Doing things, the same way, will give you the same results. If you want improvements, you need to change the approach.
In my work with different companies I see common challenges:

Overall strategy
Most companies will make some improvements. They buy some new equipment, improve and update product offerings, and send some people for training. What I very seldom see is an overall strategy on where the company wants to be in three, five or 10 years, and how they plan to get there.
And yet, that basic, documented strategy, when communicated within the management group and the employees, can become a cornerstone in the drive to reach these objectives.
“…if you do not know the goal, how can you find the way…!”

Management commitment
The most critical ingredient in change is management commitment and leadership. If employees are all fired up and motivated to drive change, but must constantly look over their shoulder and wonder if they have management support to do even minor changes, then the stage of being “fired up” will fade quickly and will turn into frustration and de-motivation.  
Senior managers must ensure that the employees know the strategy and that they have management support to carry it through.

Allowing change 
to happen
Many companies believe they do not have the expertise within their management group and their employees to drive change. They postpone the big change until the dream team is assembled. It is a fact that the more experienced your team is, the better they drive change. It will take a long time to collect such a team, and waiting until this new team is ready can delay the start of the change process by months or even years. Such long delays can rarely be recovered. Lost time is gone!
In many companies the capability of the existing team is often underestimated. Giving them the management commitment, strategy and resources will initiate change. Allowing the team to build experience and allowing them to make (small) decisions will pay off in ongoing improvements.
The road of small-steps improvement, like KAIZEN and Continuous Improvement Method is in its core, based on activating the potential 
and ideas of employees.
The biggest challenge is often for senior managers and owners to let go and delegate. This needs to happen – dream team or not.

Next steps
So, what do we change? Not every change is good. In my experience, companies are not short on ideas -it is more often the opposite. There are too many ideas – often conflicting ideas - around the table. What companies often struggle with is sorting the good from the not-so-good ideas, and to prioritize them.
Before you decide on or take a certain action, you need to establish where you want to end up. The first step is to set the goal and the objective. The more you can quantify and specify this goal, the better. Comparing the goal to the current situation results in the gap analysis, which tells you what you have to do.
This is a simplified description, but the task is 
by no means simple.
Most managers somehow,  intuitively,  know what they should do. However, as they do not have all the facts lined up, and do not have the proof for their assumptions, their plans do not get full approval and often fizzle out before coming to fruition.
I cannot stress enough the importance of a performance measure system. What gets measured, gets attention, 
and what gets attention, 
will improve!

Start culture change
Utilizing Lean manufacturing as the methodology is the commonly accepted route to take.
The benefit of using Lean manufacturing is that you are using a proven methodology and you do not have to constantly reinvent the wheel. Implementing Lean does not mean that all companies will eventually be the same. It just means that you are using the same tools from the same tool box.
Where is the top management in your company on embracing Lean?
If you are not fully convinced, it will still take further time to address key concerns. If you are already convinced that it will help your company, remember how long it took you to accept it and remember the concerns you had. Your management team and key employees need to go through the same transition. Just because you are convinced of the benefits of Lean, it might take them some time until they are also convinced.
It takes work to have you and your team become Lean champions.
If it would be easy, most companies would have done it already. Companies need to upgrade their knowledge base. This can be achieved many ways:
• Books and articles
• Training sessions
• Plant tours
• Networking with other companies
• External specialists
• Internal discussions
• Trade shows

The key is that improvements require change. Change never comes easy. Change has the risk of setbacks and sometimes failure. But in order to be successful you need to drive change 
and go forward.
Don’t wait.

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