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Workforce Engagement and Initiative: The Secret Sauce for Lean

I’ve just had a “FastCap” moment. For fellow Lean geeks I do not have to explain. If you have not heard about FastCap, the company founded by Paul Akers who introduced the concept of “2 second lean” and later wrote the book about it, I encourage you to check out their amazing videos. FastCap’s philosophy of paying it forward and sharing their learnings and insights has been a game changer for many people. FastCap’s YouTube videos are splattered with super engaged employees showing off their process improvements with pride.

The day after I watched, “FastCap’s Best Improvements for 2019 video”,  I had my own ‘FastCap’ moment… I was at a business and a location where the leader is very aware of – and very good at – building workforce engagement. I won’t divulge who this is, but you know it’s you Michael 😊.

Michael and I had spoken of stabilising their work through standardisation and like in many other corporates, how to overcome a plethora (I had to google how to spell this) of instruction documentation including: safe operating procedures, work instructions, equipment standards, maintenance routines, 5S standards etc. – Which is essentially all standard work.

We agreed to start developing area-based or role-based standard work. A single process that makes it easy for the workers to be successful. As well as, leader standard work routines that ensures their supervisors are supportive, that they ‘go and see’ and will hold everybody accountable to their designed system.

Michael took me to a work area where employee, Sumir (who had been part of the discussions the week prior) had decided not to wait for further instructions. I walked in to see a whiteboard stand with an area-based standard work list that was created by Sumir. What a guy!

This is the secret sauce for Lean: an engaged team member who has an idea, then quickly experiments with it, after which you can evaluate and improve on it together. It’s PDCA in its purest form.

Yes black hatters, you can argue whether it meets the textbook criteria of visual management, whether the right tasks are recorded, or that other parts of the process are missing…but you would miss the point. Lean success can ONLY happen with engaged workers.

And leaders, in case you still do not get the point, that’s your primary role: establish people engagement.