A disciplined and structured approach is required to continuously improve an organisation. The Lean tools provide this disciplined framework. By applying various KAIZEN™ techniques on an on-going basis, an organisation would gradually create new habits of excellence.
However, the Lean tools on its own will not make an organisation “leaner” - you need motivated and engaged people to improve your processes. It is like trying to expose dark areas with a torch with run-down batteries. The chance of identifying hidden obstacles in the disarray of darkness is rather limited. Your people might have a bit of energy left in them to start to shine the exposing light of the Lean tools, but it won’t take too long before it’s back to “hello darkness my old friend….” as Simon & Garfunkel sang in the 60’s. You can have the best torch on the market but without sufficient energy, its use will be limited, or even worse, it might be abused and then blamed that the torch doesn’t work…
KAIZEN™ leadership (at all organisational levels) ignites and sustains the energy and motivation in the workplace that will enable the disciplined use of the proven KAIZEN™ tools. Demotivated, passionless people will struggle to apply the discipline required to change-for-the-better (root meaning of Kaizen). Ultimately we will be confined to darkness: management, employees, customers, suppliers, and even society. Leadership teams can’t afford staff wasting their available energy on combatting a negative work culture, resisting change, backstabbing others, gossiping, and working against other teams. To avoid the darkness we cannot allow wasteful activities like searching for information, materials, or people. We must identify inefficiencies and find better ways to operate by disciplining ourselves out of obscurity.
A KAIZEN™ organisation ensures there is always enough energy in the batteries to enable the bulb to shine light on improvement opportunities. The KAIZEN™ leader utilises the energy of its people wisely through clever and respectful leadership. Management cares a lot about the people (their most valuable asset) and shows it by connecting with people at the coalface in a deeply respectful manner. They provide support to their frontline staff and assist them to make the workplace, products, information, and people better. They create an atmosphere where people are empowered to find disciplined countermeasures to daily problems.
Passion without transparent guidelines and a methodology is extremely dangerous. Trying to discipline people into Lean without inspiring them is futile. We need discipline AND passion in our organisations.