Adopting a Lean Strategy during Difficult Times

So, what a time. It’s a constantly moving situation for business continuity due to COVID-19.

I hope some of these strategies will assist you a little with helping to keep your business running nicely, despite the current challenges. One of our main focuses in a Lean implementation is on maintaining a high level of interpersonal communication. It’s clear there is the potential for this to suffer if we’re trying to minimise contact, much like working in silos.

Under normal circumstances, I am a big advocate about using the power of technology in helping us to communicate. You can still implement Lean in your business by using technology that is readily available to everyone. I think apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Webex, and Zoom are effective tools for allowing us to dial into meetings, group chats, or group videos. Proficient use of these online tools will really help us deal with the separation and maintain a high level of contact between the necessary on-site team members and non-essential team members working from home.

The great thing about this is that you can use the wasted talent and skills of your people to come up with creative ways of communicating, without the need to be in close quarters. Put the challenge out there, people love a challenge. Be innovative about how you communicate and benefit from the byproduct of removing some wasted motion from your processes.

During this time of rapid change and uncertainty, in addition to challenges of physical separation and isolation, you need to can facilitate and maintain even closer contact with your people.

 Standard Work

So, who knew social distancing and self-isolation would become a necessity and way of operating here in Australia? In light of this development, I wanted to look at how to maintain the momentum and productivity of your business, particularly if you have key personnel or parts of your team who are at home self-isolating.

A big concern in the absence of these team members is how are we going to deal without their knowledge? Now, some knowledge can continue to be shared by the people who can work remotely. But what about the members of your team whose input into the business requires them to be onsite? Now is a great time to be working on your standard work. Standard work is your friend.

Standard Work allows you to retain knowledge in the business when the individuals aren’t there. And in this particular situation, to maintain your business continuity, it can be an absolute game-changer to ensuring that you have a good standard of quality and a good standard of delivery in your business. I liken standard work to be an approach and a way of thinking to drive quality and knowledge sharing, not just as a document or a piece of paper.

So if I was going to offer you any advice in the current situation, it would be to get cracking on your standard work. Build and maintain your database of standard work so that you can improve and maintain your business continuity.

If you have good business continuity, you’re ready to support your customers.

Remote Work and Training

Like most of us at the moment, I’m keeping an eye on the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation.

However, I’m going to maintain a strong focus on business continuity, whilst adhering to social distancing requirements and reducing or removing physical interactions from the workplace. Training is an element of business that has the potential to become neglected when we’re in a situation like this. Much of the engagement of our teams in training and education is traditionally delivered using a face to face, classroom-type environment approach. Clearly, this is now less than ideal.

So what are we going to do about it? One of the best ways to continue to deliver training when face to face methods are not an option is to conduct training remotely via platforms such as WebEx or using Zoom meetings. Get rid of your preconceptions around long, boring, online training sessions.  It could be one-on-one coaching, fast skill-based learning or virtual problem solving of issues in your business and delivering strategies to overcome them i.e. root cause analysis, 5Ys.

Regardless whether your business is growing due to Convid-19 or significantly impacted, this is the time to inwardly look at what skills are needed in your business to ensure business continuity.  Based on your core business strategy, ask yourself firstly, do I have the skills to deliver on this, and if not pull in help to upskill and coach your people.  During this crisis, most businesses are looking at either improving processes to increase output or improving processes to cut waste.  To achieve this, your people need to know how to do this.  At a minimum I would recommend training around process mapping, problem solving, project scoping and delivery.  You will be in a better position to weather this storm.  If you’re responsible for the learning and development within a business, switch to a remote training model. It can provide really good benefits for you.

In addition to taking a remote approach to your training, I’d strongly recommend avoiding having key personnel who can only do one type of job in the same room at the same time. If you have everybody in that room get sick, you’ve lost those key personnel. A strong focus on the development of your standard work practices can help alleviate this anxiety too. Another thing to think about is your facility’s capacity, space people out and adhere to the current requirements determined by the Department of Health Guidelines in your state or territory.

While it’s a time of uncertainty, now is the time to plan your next move.

Much Respect,

Daniel Giles
Lean and Business Improvement Specialist

If you are interested in any of Daniel’s Lean Training workshops in Perth or reading about his background, please visit this link.