Lean Management advocates the continuous improvement of procedures to strengthen business productivity. Because a company made by the people who work within it, Lean Management aims to put people at the centre of Management. How can this be done when most staff are currently working from home?
The concept of Lean Management was created in the USA, though production systems in Toyota factories inspired it. James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos, all professors at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are credited with the concept. They were the first to publish it in their best-selling book “The system that will change the world”, back in the 90s.
Lean Management and the Health Crisis
Lean Management has three primary objectives:
- Strengthen the profitability of the company.
- Improve the quality of its products or services.
- Optimise manufacturing times.
These objectives ultimately aim to make organisations ever more efficient, with a view to continuous quality improvement. Between the new social distancing rules in companies and the new emphasis on home working, administering Lean Management systems is a new challenge for companies.
Any lean approach requires gathering precise and quantifiable data. That data is used to identify areas for improvement, like accurately measuring the time it takes to bring a new product to market.
The same approach can also measure a possible increase in productivity created by home-working staff, or to determine how remote working leads to new ways of collaboration.
Lean Management and Occupational Health
It would be unwise to use performance data to act as the single gauge of the Lean approach. Though it is necessary to take performance data into account, by focusing too much on productivity gains, you risk pressurising teams and getting lower productivity.
There is also the risk of creating a rigid and stressful work environment, leaving little room for autonomy and innovation. Whatever the work environment, offices, warehouses or home, an overly rigorous approach can cause risks to mental health or MSDs. MSDs – Musculoskeletal Disorders – are cause for concern to occupational health and safety.
Lean Management cannot truly become established without building ergonomic work areas, but also ensuring the autonomy of your teams, whether in the office or at home.
Lean Management and Collective Intelligence
The freedom of home workers raises the question around responsiveness and speed of execution. Homeworking teams must be able to react quickly, to be able to face new challenges. A home working team must be able to adapt and learn from previous mistakes to do this.
Creativity, flexibility and agility are at the heart of the Lean approach, so it should take advantage of collective intelligence. For home workers, the best way to do this is to make the most of the collaborative tools available. Involvement and commitment are essential!
Lean Management and Human Management
Lean Management is about putting people at the heart of organisations, whether in the office or at home. Employees are not expendable resources but have incalculable worth. A good managerial approach is:
- Taking a ‘big-picture’ approach
Reducing the company to simple issues of profitability and productivity will not work. All elements must be taken into account, whether economic, human, environmental or social.
- Giving meaning to actions
For each of us, the meaning of our work is a primary motivator. It is therefore essential that everyone is clear about the goals assigned to them, as well as how to achieve them. Clarity is essential for successful collaboration.
- Creating an open atmosphere
Taking care to value employees and recognise their work is another essential motivator. Instead of falling into the pitfalls of micromanagement, an open atmosphere encourages listening, dialogue and trust.
In conclusion, Lean Management is primarily a human-centric approach. It cannot be separated from the need to keep employees happy and healthy. Lean Management holds that the work environment should adapt to humans, not the other way around.
At a time when organisations face major upheavals, this principle is especially relevant.
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