Posted by: Knightbird | July 13, 2011

Documenting Improvement in a Lean Organization

Thousands of problems (defects) exist in every organization. Training employees to recognize when there is a problem is critical to your improvement mission. Equally as important is training employees not to react negatively to someone else identifying a problem or to be reluctant to identify a problem for fear of offending a coworker. We had this discussion today among a group working on development of a problem statement about the difficulties we have had documenting and filing improvement events (A-3’s and Ideas). I feel it is important to understand the number of ideas and improvement events occurring in the organization. This informs us about the health of the lean culture, that is, are employees engaging and recording events.

If an employee is not engaged in lean, then we have a problem. Their coworkers are carrying an additional improvement burden that they are not. And their customers are not being served as well as they should. This problem leads to a lowered overall rate of improvement in quality and service delivery. Failure of an employee to participate in idea generation and improvement events causes varying degrees of waste, and the accompanying expense, for the organization.

For the years I have been at Chugachmiut, our board has been very generous at providing uniform year-end bonuses and regular inflationary wage increases for all employees. One of the concepts we are discussing is making bonuses and wage increases dependent on full participation in improvement and documentation. Employee’s who make the decision not to fully engage will be making a decision not to participate in the extra compensation. I feel like this is fair but I am curious what other lean leaders feel. Improvement is legitimate work, and if an employee neglects improvement, should they bear the financial burden of neglecting that work?

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