We know that Lean, a facet of Kaizen, is an incredibly efficient and productive way to approach manufacturing. Toyota exemplifies this with great success. However, America has not seen quite the effectiveness that the Japanese experience. To understand why, we need to look at cultural differences between the Eastern and Western work ethics and determine whether we can adopt some of their mindsets.
In part one, we explored their motivation to seek constant improvement, and how heavily emphasized group involvement is. Let’s take a look at two other significant differences.
- Work takes precedence over leisure. This isn’t one we really want to change, is it? Americans strive to adapt a better work/life balance (which most manufacturers desperately need), and that’s something we highly value. So how do we compensate for this fervent work ethic that compels Japanese employees to work 14-hour days? There are a couple of approaches. First, choose the equipment, tools, and solutions that will make jobs as easy as possible. Eliminate or reduce strain, confusion, and extra steps everywhere you can. That means using anything from manual material handling equipment to packaging solutions. Not only are you empowering the employees to get more work done in less time, you are letting them do so without compromising their wellbeing.
Second, make them value and feel valued for the work they do. Accomplishing the suggestions in Part 1 are great ways to show employees they are valued and to add value to their work.
- Employees typically stay at one company their entire careers. What kind of opportunities do your employees have for advancement? Are you utilizing their strengths appropriately? Are you training them so they can hone and expand their skills? People will be much more loyal to a company that invests in them. Find out what path they want to pursue and help them develop to get there.
Lean strategies are most successful when the people responsible for seeing them through have the right kind of mindset to support them. How can you create a better lean culture?
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