Give lean a lift | PLANT print issue

11 tips for rejuvenating the culture

November 29, 2013
by Samantha Waytowich

Once lean is part of your manufacturing culture, the time may come when employees seem less engaged and some momentum is lost.

Here are 11 tips for giving your company’s lean efforts a lift.

1. Do a pulse check. Ask employees what’s working and what isn’t. Consider your external customers too. Lean opportunities will be revealed by their replies.

2. Recommit executive presence. This reinforces lean as a culture and is key to achieving company strategy and goals. Executives can help recruit new lean leaders, launch projects, communicate results and help make lean more fun.

3. Retrain your lean team. Offer lean veterans an opportunity to brush up. Role-specific training and custom on-site courses will be helpful once standard lean courses are complete.

4. Revamp your rewards and recognition. Link lean to each employee’s performance, management included. Post progress somewhere visible. Changing up the rewards mix is important too.

5. Find your natural leaders. From plant floor to customer service and sales, they rally and engage others, enabling change and their motivation is far more powerful than a paycheque or other reward. Consider connecting a lean role to promotion.

6. Dare to be quick and crude. Over the long term lean can appear weighty and overwhelming. Keep projects strategically aligned but allow lean leaders to be more nimble in meetings and with their documentation.

7. Use new media. Your lean charter could be captured on video or even in a photograph of Post-it notes on a wall or table. As long as the essence is correct and key elements present, it’s still documentation.

8. Cross-populate your lean teams. Move strong players from one function or team to another. Chances are they’ll ask different questions and offer different ideas.

9. Make it fun. Many manufacturers plan offsite events and their own mini-conferences around lean, including presentations, food and appearances from the GM or CEO.

10. Get outside your front door. This could involve doing a lean project at a supplier’s site. Field trips are a good idea too. It doesn’t have to be a business like yours. Visit a hospital or retailer to see what they’re doing.

11. Make your lean green. Launching lean around saving energy and reducing water use or fuel consumption shows how efficiencies and improvement benefit customers, employees and the planet.

Samantha Waytowich is a 10-year Lean Sigma Black Belt and consultant with Leading Edge Group (, an international consultancy and services company with offices in Canada, Ireland and the UK. E-mail

This article appears in the Oct. 2013 edition of PLANT.