I often get asked by company owners and senior managers questions like “Why should we implement Lean or Six Sigma? Don’t they only work in larger companies?” From this question, or a similar one, the conversation usually proceeds as…
Me: “Well, can you tell me your largest controllable problem?”
Them: Names a problem
Me: “Since this problem is controllable, it is within your capabilities to get it addressed. Correct?”
Me: “So why does the problem still exist?”
Them: “I don’t have enough time to get to it.”
Me: “Why don’t you have enough time?”
Them: “I’m too busy addressing other issues.”
Me: “Why are you too busy with other issues?”
Them: “Because nobody else fixes them.”
Me: “Why does nobody else fix them?”
Them: “I’m not really sure. I think they can, but no one steps up and does anything unless I tell them to.”
At this point we discuss the three most common reasons employees don’t get involved in problems at work:
- I don’t know how. Companies need to have an easily understood process for staff to socialize a potential resolution to a problem and get buy in from all levels of the organization. If there is no such process, they can’t see how to get an improvement implemented, so they don’t start.
- You don’t really want me to get involved. At many companies the unspoken message is that problem resolution belongs to those with special skills or experience, rather than for operators.
- I don’t have access to the resources I need. Implementing an improvement takes time or money or both. Most production employees are driven to focus on getting more production every day, and certainly can’t authorize spending even small amounts of company money. Many supervisors also have no authority to spend even a few hundred dollars. Employee improvement ideas usually have paybacks of less than 6 months – a great investment!
Continuous Improvement systems address all three of these issues. That’s why every company of more than 2 people needs to have one in place.