Your company has a culture, improve it don't break it

April 11, 2018

I spend my spare time studying all things business, of particular interest is the implementation of the various quality and productivity systems such as Lean, 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, ISO etc.. My observation is as follows bad company culture matters and good company culture matters. Neither culture is permanent the bad can be raised and the good can be dragged down. How does that relate to quality and productivity systems. An understanding of how the new system fits into your company culture is imperative to it's success.


I have worked with companies where literally it was not the product being produced being the focus of the company but making sure the system was being fed becoming the focus of the company. The result unhappy employee's, poor supplier relations and part shortages. On the flip side I have worked with companies who had their brief fling with a system and soon did nothing to sustain their gains. The result unhappy employee's, suppliers trying to figure out how to support and part shortages.


Quotes from a machine shop forum. "5S is the stupidest thing I have seen yet in manufacturing. Period. There is absolutely no logic. None. At least not the way I have seen it applied." 


"I think this thread is splitting into two neat groups: those who have seen one of these programs work out, and those who have seen rampant stupidity flying the banner of these various programs/processes/systems/fads. I think the main separator between the observed outcomes is the level of critical thinking of the leaders, and the level of involvement of the people who will use the "system". If you find yourself in a 5S project and someone leading it says everything older than X is gone, the writing is on the wall. Park your truck near the dumpster because some good stuff is heading out the door. If it is done in consultation with the people who know what the stuff is, it could go well and be an improvement."


"I saw all manner of these dog and pony shows for years. If by chance they were helpfull, the people implementing said program usually couldn't find his/her ass with both hands. Screwed the process up to a fair-the-well, and we ended up with situations pretty much like wh####king is describing.....or much worse. If they couldn't find someone incompetent enough in-house to run the show they would find the best dumbass off the street for the job.....rant over!!"


The implementation of any quality assurance or productivity system is going to be a change to the culture of a company. This change to the culture can be a major upheaval or a smooth transition. It is up to management from the top dog on down to buy in and make sure the transition is a smooth one. The failure of most systems is the lack of support by the powers that be. They have failed to establish the culture in which the new system can survive. The failure to include all of the people and departments affected "really the entire company" in the decision making process. They have failed to see the changes as anything but a short term solution to raise revenues.


In my opinion implementation of any system / change in the culture of a company must be looked at as a long term strategy and needs a six to twelve month gradual implementation. American companies need to stop looking at business in monthly and short term six to twelve month gains and start playing the long game, their foreign competition is.


It has become obvious to me that in far to many cases these initiatives are started at high levels within the company as a way to generate increasing revenues and do not reach down to the people who will actually implement the system until it is go time. This causes massive blow back as people busy doing their jobs often already overloaded to react in a negative manner. After several initiatives from above lose their steam and die out the oh it's just another management project ignore it and it will go away attitude sets in.


A company can start their journey with a gradual implementation of and I hate buzzwords Kazein and Kanban. In my opinion the easiest places to start changing the culture and teaching the value of  continuous improvement and an organized work environment. Using these methods the company starts with the lowest hanging fruit. Projects that are guaranteed to be successful. Six months of continuous improvement in the work environment will make the work force much more receptive to a more "complex system". You have to remember this is a long term strategy and you are slowly changing the course of the business. 

























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