An essential element of a lean roadmap understands the phases a company may transition through from the time they start their lean journey to the time they have a sustainable momentum built. Through our experience, we have developed the following simple, effective and realistic roadmap based on 5 key phases.
The first phase, or Phase 0, is Exploration. Many companies go through this, but you wouldn't purposely plan it in. This is the phase where the company is exploring what lean is and what it means for them. A company may even try a few kaizens or even start some kanban cards or 5S tools. This is the phase before a company makes a true commitment to lean. While you wouldn't purposely flounder in this phase for months or years as many companies do, it is part of the roadmap to help companies identify when this is where they are.
Building the Foundation
The next phase, or Phase 1, is Building the Foundation. This phase is essentially about learning and can last for months or even a couple years. It is important to build a strong foundation of understanding, knowledge, know-how and wisdom about the lean journey. If you start your lean journey by trying to tackle your most critical, life-or-death issue, you will likely revert to your old skills and knowledge. This learning is not all in the classroomfar from it. Much of it must be learned by going out to your processes and trying this. The major distinction here, however, is that your primary purpose of these improvement efforts is to learn, with improved results just secondary.
Expansion and Focus
Phase 2 is Expansion and Focus. In this phase you expand beyond your initial learning efforts into a broader base of the company. You also begin to focus your efforts and your purpose towards gaining results. You will not cover every base or solve every problem, but you will begin to see significant gains. During this phase, just as the last, significant leadership and guidance will still be needed. Those prepared to lead will still be in the minority and the culture will be changing but not yet shifted.
Integration and Reinforcement
Phase 3 is Integration and Reinforcement. In the initial phases, lean is still considered its own initiative. During this phase, lean becomes part of the way you do business; it becomes integrated into everything you do. It begins with employee orientation and affects every corner from annual planning, performance review, sales strategies and even board meetings. Rules, principles, tools and methods are reinforced so that each individual is now exposed and at some level of skill. Lean is now part of how you do things.
Reinforcement and Momentum
Phase 4 is the phase that never ends. At this point, lean isn't even a word. It just "is." At this point, lean is integrated into your language, your customers, your suppliers and your investors. It would be harder to stop your lean efforts than just let them continue to roll.
There is no recipe, no one right perfect way that fits all scenarios. But there is a roadmap. Use this roadmap to help understand where you are, where you want to go and a few options to get there.