LEAN Does Not Mean Less Employees Are Needed

LEAN Is Not A Four Letter Word

Because organizations have misused Lean, using the tools solely to reduce headcount, it is not surprising that various employee groups believe Lean is a four-letter word, an acronym for  “Less Employees Are Needed.”

A Lean transformation often surfaces excess, or redundant employees.  This reality can reinforce Lean’s negative reputation if leadership does not properly manage dynamics.  One of the principles of Lean is to respect all individuals.  Wise leadership respects all the people, and knows that without employee buy-in, a true transformation to wealth creation will not happen.  Honest, ethical, straightforward managements level with the employees.  They admit the possibility of some job eliminations.  They introduce employee retention policies that are inline with the “people first” tenant of Lean. There are at least 12 proven strategies that good companies use to deal with potential job reductions.  (These strategies, and many others, are outlined in my forthcoming book, “Turn Waste Into Wealth.”)

To deal with the potential job reduction good companies do the following:

  • Provide proactive cross-functional training and the development of a multi-skilled workforce. Engineers are trained to be sales people, and receptionists are trained to be customer service reps.
  • Encourage employees to change, to grow, to be flexible regarding job descriptions, work locations, workdays and hours.
  • Foster a continuous improvement mindset personally and professionally.
  • Use cross-functional teams where potentially adrift employees can make new contributions.
  • Use Lean created resources and money to grow the businesses providing new work opportunities.
  • Natural attrition creates cross-job movement opportunities.
  • Reduce, or eliminate, temps and seasonal hires.
  • Deploy people to full time improvement teams.
  • In source activities that make sense.
  • Offer incentives for early retirement.
  • Provide out placement assistance.
  • Voluntary separation creates job opportunities.

Good companies fight to avoid layoffs and terminations, but they must be able to deal with adverse economic or business conditions.

Lean transformation is tied to contributing employees, not to fewer employees.

Lean leads to growth and jobs.  And “jobs” is a good four-letter word.

This blog is adapted from my soon-to-be-published book on how any company can turn inevitable waste into cash.  Stay tuned for continuous blogs on how to “Turn Waste into Wealth” at my website: www.markdeluzio.com.

Posted in Lean

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