Fueling Fireplace Lean

A wood burner needs a proper kindle to get the fire going. Lean isn't much different.

During the New Zealand winter the wood burner or fireplace has a prominent position in many households. The smells and sounds of a fireplace can ignite so many memories and has the potential to retrieve some of the forgotten experiences stored in the deepest part of the brain.

One chilly evening my son was doing his best to ignite our wood burner but after some frustration decided the X-Box might bring more fulfilment... As I grew up in a rural area, igniting a fire is almost second nature to me (well, not in the sense of arson...) and soon a fire emerged from the ashes. Howbeit, my son also used this as an opportunity to improve his basic survival skills.

One lesson to be learnt from this event is to use enough kindling and firelighters when starting a fire. I have noticed through the years that to set a decent fire you need to start properly. Do it right the first time - no holding back. Using kindling and firelighters too sparingly will most probably require the restarting of the process (as in our case) - consuming more resources than initially planned. It will also require an extended effort (rework): while your guests are waiting for you to join them at the dinner table you might be huffing and puffing with the consequential frustration or embarrassment. Opening the furnace to re-ignite will most likely fill the room with smoke and this might trigger the smoke alarm - more time wasted and even more headaches. In our case we also had to buy more firelighters due to the depletion of this resource.

To top it all the "customers" of this process did not experience the much needed warmth when required - apart from getting hot under the collar perhaps! Inhaling clouds of smoke while trying to locate the crème brûlée on the table through the smog is maybe not the best way to delight the guests...

The KAIZEN™ question is: how often do we experience similar inefficiencies in our organisations because management and/or the leadership team are not fully and truly committed to continuously improve the organisation? Are our employees blinded by the smoke (and mirrors) of previous Lean efforts that were not sustained? How much of our time, money and resources are being spent (and re-spent) on a lukewarm approach to business excellence?

An organisation cannot be transformed into a highly efficient team without total commitment. Do it right the first time and this implies a good understanding of why the "warmth" of a KAIZEN™ approach is needed in the organisation. Once you are convinced why you want to change for the better, a disciplined management and Lean leadership style is fundamental to ignite and fuel your continuous improvement activities. The Kaizen Institute has been assisting organisations globally (large and small) for the last 30 years to achieve this.

You cannot save in the long run by being skimpy in the front end of a process. Like most things in life, to start is very often a difficult part of the process of achieving success. Obviously there are other critical factors to being successful, nonetheless, the quality at the beginning of a process will have a strong influence on the quality downstream. A comprehensive and unwavering approach to Lean from the start will improve your improvement initiatives and outcomes.

If you are new to the KAIZEN™ approach, make sure you are committed from the first day. It might cost you time and money in the beginning but down the track you will have a quality fire burning. If you have been struggling to get the fire going in your teams, well, face the smoke and re-ignite!

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