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How Lean can be feared by the workforce and how goal deployment will help

by Chris Cooley

The fear of lean

Almost by the nature of the term, lean is often feared and seen by the workforce as a means to cut costs and therefore cut people. Herein lies a major paradox – lean requires engagement by all people at all levels, yet these very people often see lean as a threat.

The key to lean is to remove waste to enable the business to sell more with the same amount of resource. This was the core philosophy of the founders of lean.

This requires strong leadership and good goal cascade to manage a potentially damaging situation and engage the whole organisation in improving the business for the good at all.

Goal Cascade

It is Lean QCD’s strong believe that all businesses have three core goals:

  1. Satisfy Customer
  2. Satisfy Team
  3. Make Money, now and in the future

These 3 goals are all essential, are all equally important and are completely inter-linked.

Stage 1 – Align business goals to individual goals

stages of cascading goals

Individual teams are now working actively towards achieving the business goals. However, you cannot stop here otherwise there will be lots of silo departments falling over each other to achieve their own results.

Stage 2 – Establish effective internal customer / supplier relationships

stages of goal cascade 2

Each team now understands their role in supporting other teams to achieve their goals. Improvement plans are agreed and tracked and satisfy customer now applies internally as well as externally.

Stage 3 – Establish a company wide continuous improvement cycle

stages of goal cascade 3

There is full communication of business goals, area goals, internal improvement plans and inter-team customer service levels.

Follow all stages of goal deployment

If these 3 stages are followed then there will be true goal cascade – all areas (and individuals) will understand what the organisation is aiming to achieve (business goals), will know the part they should be playing and how they are being measured.

This alone will not remove the fear of lean improvement, but is a good starting point and will give some structure to the business improvements.

The next and possibly most important stage is to deploy goal cascade – here good leadership skills are needed…….  see Lean QCD approach to Leadership


So the key is to engage the people:

  • Lean QCD will never support an implementation where the stated aim is headcount redundancies
  • This therefore requires companies to have an expansion strategy – then the goal of the lean implementation becomes freeing up capacity to be able to sell more with the same amount of labour
  • Therefore removing some of the risk out of expansion because the labour is already in place and there should be little need for additional recruitment until the expansion provides results
  • If this expansion strategy is well communicated and well understood through effective goal cascade, there will be less fear of change

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