webinar recap: using appreciation to move lean principles into practice

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Our April webinar, “Using Appreciation to Move Lean Principles into Practice,” was led by O.C. Tanner’s Executive Vice President of Supply Chain & Production, Gary Peterson. Peterson delivered key insights on understanding Lean processes—and why going Lean while focusing on appreciation is the key to empowering teams and revolutionizing your workplace culture.

Lean principles, Peterson explained, start with understanding that your business has room to grow. There are things that can be improved in your daily processes to be more time-efficient, less energy consuming, or more productive. And the secret to truly integrating Lean principles is getting everyone on board and participating, because that way you can capitalize on great ideas from individuals throughout the organization. Unfortunately, many leaders and contributors alike are afraid of the term “Lean,” because they assume it means scaling back on business processes—and phasing out team members. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, Peterson explained. Instead, when done right, Lean principles actually empower people to deliver a greater difference than ever before. And that will not just increase innovation throughout teams, but drive real, bottom-line results for customers, as well.

Peterson delivered O.C. Tanner’s own results with implementing Lean processes. They’re what the team refers to as “Our Lean Victories,” and the numbers are impressive:

  • Production time has fallen from 26 days to a mere 20 minutes.
  • Efficiency has improved by 300%.
  • Inventory turns have improved 4x.
  • All hazardous waste from our manufacturing process has been eliminated.
  • And, after Lean has been implemented, teams save 6 million pieces of paper annually.

From his experience leading O.C. Tanner teams through the process of adopting Lean principles, Peterson explained how leaders encouraged the new mindset to stick with every team member and manager. He described the importance of thinking of Lean processes as “the democratization of innovation” because the purpose of Lean is to improve the workplace by tapping into the potential of individuals to collaborate and make a difference. The way you can do that, Peterson highlighted, is focusing on learning and leading with appreciation. That’s the first step of taking Lean principles and truly putting them into practice throughout a company or department—and an emphasis on respect and recognition puts everyone involved more at ease with the process.

You have to begin by asking everyone, at every level, to share ideas and input and collaborate on making new initiatives reality. Collect feedback from teams and individual contributors as you begin your culture change. Have them weigh in with their ideas on what can be made more efficient, less costly, or simplified. Once you understand that Lean is really about bottom-up, not top-down, innovation, it becomes much easier to apply and to encourage buy-in at every level. Make room for experimentation, innovation, and inquiry, so that teams and individuals begin to internalize the Lean processes. Then, it’s time to roll out appreciation. As you start seeing results of the innovations from Lean thinking—things like saving pennies, seconds, or stress—give recognition for the people who embraced Lean behaviors to make it happen. Appreciate not just the movers and shakers, but also the people who regularly look for ways to innovate and inspire others. Also, recognize the great collaborators and communicators without whom the work couldn’t get done.

By appreciating great work at every level, you will empower your people to deliver continuous improvement, expand productivity in every team, and drive innovation throughout your organization. That’s the true power of Lean. Listen to the full webinar recording to discover Peterson’s seven steps to a thriving Lean culture and the informative question and answer session that followed.

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