Connecting you to leaner goals

LM Connect on March 24 was an eye-opening event for lean beginners, veterans and role models alike. Jane Gray recounts some of the discussion which defined the day.

The premise of LM Connect, as with the other ‘Connect’ events run by SayOne Media, is to condense an often difficult researching, resourcing and selection process into the space of a single day.

Here the investment being examined was lean enterprise, a proposition interpreted and approached in diverse ways across all sectors of British manufacturing, and parts of the service sector.

The thought-provoking conference agenda, that complemented the opportunity to meet potential external lean partners one-to-one, inspired questions across a range of lean and lean-related business concerns.

Some of the key topics discussed by delegates and speakers at LM Connect were:

● the importance of business acumen in lean implementations
● the responsibility of process and policy drivers to police the way change is achieved,
● methods for engaging support, and
● the semantics of change itself

Dr Keith Copeland MBE, a senior engineer at Nissan UK, spoke forthrightly on business acumen and his views were echoed by Ben Salder, senior business improvement manager at BAE Systems Submarine Solutions.

Mr Salder challenged delegates to consider how well their organisational structures and working practices were communicated in connection with organisational change. He said that improvement cannot be created without strong understanding of the unique organisational dynamics in any one company, and added that workforce skills and knowledge will be wasted without such understanding.

Taking this a step further the event chairman, Jeff McGowan, sourcing manager at Johnson & Johnson LifeScan, made overt connections between the ability of strategy owners in organisations to understand the systemic reasons for failure or sub-optimisation of lean, and the likelihood of that company ever being able to alter its current state. Mr McGowan made leading suggestions about the role of policy drivers in financial services companies in establishing the environment which caused the 2008/2009 global financial crisis. Taking on the challenge of systemic understanding with pragmatic intelligence, McGowan showed delegates how combining commonly used value stream mapping and root cause analysis tools, like the ‘5 Whys’ and fishbone mapping, with systems thinking techniques and PDCA, would alleviate the danger of seeing system problems in isolation.

LM Connect was marked by the realisation that there is still a great deal of progress to be made before many organisations can truly feel in control of their end-to-end information, work and material flows.

Considering that some of the attending companies at LM Connect had been on their lean journeys for 10-years or more, this realisation may have been daunting for those delegates just taking their first tentative steps into a leaner world, but equally it gave comfort that continuous improvement is a constant learning experience.