How Does Lean
Drive Transformation?


The challenges that several sectors of the economy have experienced to sustain the growth of their businesses have led to the implementation of methodologies that ensure flexible, agile and innovative teams as well as efficient and quality processes.

Shell, Airbus and Nikkelverk agree on the relevance of Lean as a methodology to achieve efficient operations. As discussed at the event, these are the key to Lean success – organising teams by value stream, leadership commitment and the ability to interpret and analyse data.

Organisation by Value Streams

Traditionally, companies were organised by function and each department was focused on its own operations and responsibilities. According to this structure, each team has a set of tasks related to its area of expertise such as the production level, teams of welders or electricians. In this model, there are often communication problems, non-balanced teams, lack of flexibility and long waiting and validation times.

In a value stream organisation, the watchword is agility. In this structure, the aim is to accelerate the value creation process and increase the focus on the customer. Therefore, all resources are flexible and teams are organised under an end-to-end perspective with a focus on the product for the customer.

Going back to the previous example, instead of having a team of welders and a team of electricians, there is now a team for product family A and another for product family B, where there are elements with different roles in each of these teams.

There may also be a third team which is not allocated to any of these product families, and which can absorb the variability in demand whenever necessary – becoming part of team A or B. With this type of model – also known as agile organisation – it becomes possible to reduce the inefficiencies of the functional structure, ensuring a better balance of resources, a reduction in the production Lead Time, and an increase in collaborators’ ownership and motivation.

Leadership Commitment

The commitment of top management is considered by many experts as the main contributor for the success of any kind of transformation. In fact, leadership must play an active role in leading and encouraging action and giving responsibility and autonomy to the different teams, so that excellence can be achieved in a global manner.

To demonstrate this support, it is essential that leaders have three complementary behaviours: express, model and reinforcement. Firstly, express why this transformation is important and do so in an authentic and genuine way. Then model, that is, lead by example. To do so, the leaders should not only practice behaviours such as Gemba Walks and daily team meetings, but also make this transformation a priority, and thus assign internal resources to its implementation. Finally, reinforce through positive promotion or acknowledgement of behaviours aligned with the principles of the transformation in question.

Data Interpretation

With technological evolution and the digitalisation of information, collecting data related to the production process has become increasingly easier. In fact, the effort of measuring and collecting data at the moment of its generation is now extraordinarily reduced. This is due to the computerisation of processes which makes this collection practically automatic. However, this does not mean that the data recorded is enough to make decisions. It is common that the data is not consistent or reliable, and therefore not representative of the operation’s real situation. Hence, it is essential to start by defining which variables need to be measured and to validate the existing data collection method. To perform this verification, it may be necessary to confirm the data through a sample of occurrences. After ensuring the reliability of the data, the focus should be on interpreting and analysing it to draw relevant conclusions and make assertive decisions that contribute to the improvement process.

Implementing a culture of continuous improvement is a leadership process that demands profound changes throughout the organisation, but which enhances the development of companies, thereby guaranteeing their competitiveness in the market they operate in.

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