Lean Manufacturing is one of six focus areas to which my company has committed (funds, energy, resources.) We here in IT have heard great testimonials about how the Lean process has reduced waste and increased revenue and profit on the manufacturing floor. Recently, my manager came out of a managers’ meeting (that is what manager’s do) and asked if I’d be interested in the role of Lean Leader for our department. Considering that my workload was light, I welcomed the opportunity. Also, it was right down my alley, as I would think it would be for many PMs. It is a well-defined science with a set of philosophies, processes, tools, techniques, books and, just like PM, requires a good deal of people management.

Our Lean journey (as it is referred to) began on Monday. I will use this site to provide updates on the process and our implementation of it.

Here’s what went down. Our company has an Operational Excellence office from which a group of “Leaders” work. Last Friday, we received notice that our Lean Leaders would be here on Monday (now that’s Lean notification if you ask me.)

On Monday, the corporate Lean leaders pulled together our management team for a 1.5h Lean Foundations presentation. This provided some basic introduction to the language and process for Lean.

On Tuesday, I sat in on one-on-one interviews with the managers and the Lean leaders. The goal of these meetings was to understand what processes the managers own and where they saw opportunity to improve. First, let me state that I feel that the purpose of the meetings was not well defined and that closed-door meetings in our office often cause some anxiety. With that said, the one-on-one’s ranged from insightful and thoughtful to accusatory to downright aggressive. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to how comfortable (i.e secure) an individual is with honestly talking about and reflecting upon their area of responsibility and their responsiveness to suggestions or questioning about the validity of how they do their job and if they can see ways of improving. Essentially, no process is perfect. Even the best continue to seek improvement (that’s how they maintain their elite status.)

On Wednesday, we (the Lean leaders and I) summarized the notes we took from the interviews and tried to narrow down areas to address. We did this on a 2×2 board with Difficulty and Benefit axes. We talked about Heijunkas and Kanbans and Visual Stream Mappings. I had to asked a number of clarifying questions since much of this was new to me and my homework on the topic was constrained to manufacturing topics.

On Thursday, the Lean leaders gave a summary presentation on what was discovered and their recommended 30 day and 60-90 day initiatives.

Next steps include deciding what we as a group will pursue. I hope to provide an update shortly on our next steps on the Lean journey.