worked hard to send all the work they could to the next operation. If they
made a mistake, they would fix it on their own and move on—and no one
Moreover, what the next operation did with the work wasn’t their problem. They didn’t have to worry how others performed. Considering all this,
no wonder the welders resist change. The new part flow seemingly destroys what they like most about their job.
Before even thinking about implementing change, put yourself in the
welders’ shoes. Welders might like autonomy, but they also like efficiency,
and they don’t like wasting time. Batch processing is extraordinarily inefficient, and it makes life difficult for everyone. Welders leave their workstations to go on daily part hunts. They work late and miss time with their
families. Assemblers search for parts too, and production managers run to
clear bottlenecks. It’s not them. It’s the process. And with their help, the
process can be made much, much better.
Consider another situation involving standard work. It’s a common tool
in the lean toolbox, but it’s not intended to box in or limit someone. Rather,
it is a way to have a defined, consistently used process, eliminating or
minimizing variation and non-value-added work. Standard work empowers
employees to resolve problems quickly, because there is only one way the
work is done. You don’t have to investigate each person’s unique process
to find the root cause.
Say you go to the employee’s workstation, lay the new standard-work
document down, and say, “Here is the way you do this work from now on.”
You should expect some resistance.
What you intend and what the employee sees and hears might be two
wildly different things. You intend to provide a way to make the work better, and the employee sees the standard work as a punishment and creativity dampener. Again, you should get in front of the resistance so that your
employees accept the lean improvements for what they are: ways to make
everyone more competitive and successful.
Learn From the Resistance
Changes you make on your lean journey—rearranged flow, repositioning
of tools through 5S, more effective parts presentation, one-piece flow instead of batching, and on it goes—are logical, effective, and simply make
lots of sense. But the best technical changes can be undermined if you do
not pay attention to the soft side of change—that is, the people.
People resist because the changes haven’t been managed. In many cases, the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of resistance are self-inflicted.
By applying the ideas we have explored here, you can get in front of the
resistance. The better you do this, the more success you’ll have on your
Jeff Sipes is principal of Back2Basics LLC, 317-439-7960, www.back2basics-lean.com. If you
have improvement ideas you’d like to read about, email him at email@example.com
or Senior Editor Tim Heston at firstname.lastname@example.org.