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Warehouse Operations

The Problems with Lean Program Management

Alex Stark | January 21, 2016

Lean quality improvement programs can drive millions of dollars in value within your supply chain. But if you're not careful, lean program management can create bureaucratic barriers to getting the work done and realizing this value.

Lean program management needs to get leanThat's right. You may need a Lean project for your Lean program. We write about it in the KANE Viewpoint: "How Lean is Lean?"

What are some of the ways Lean program management can get in the way?

Burdensome paperwork.

One team submitted a "charter" statement for a new Lean warehousing project, but the Lean program manager kicked it back several times because it did not conform to the dictated format. The result: the group felt like they were back in high school and enthusiasm for the project waned.

Too many projects.

As companies invest budget dollars to develop Lean programs, executives need to justify that investment with an ROI. As a result, simple tasks that could be handled with a couple of meetings and some follow up get put forward as Lean projects in order for the savings to be formally tallied. This wastes a ton of effort processing paperwork and attending unnecessary meetings.

Overly academic training. 

Keep the tool set simple. For KANE's Lean Six Sigma program, we pick the tools that work best for us and focus training on how to use these. Keep it simple and leave the regression analysis to the engineers and program managers.

Large project teams.

Lean program management, in an attempt to create cross-functional alignment, can promote the creation of large work teams. If you're sitting in a Lean project meeting with 15 other people, that's a problem. The more people, the less productive the team will be. And you can bet there's some customer, somewhere, wondering why she can't get anyone on the phone.

Keep Lean Program Management Lean

Lean programs need structure, just not too much of it. To maximize the benefits of Lean, program management should put the most emphasis on creating a culture where people are hard-wired to take cost and waste out of processes.  Once that's done, get out of their way.