Team Building

Team Building as a Lean Manufacturing Concept

Several of our team building clients are large businesses, manufacturers and institutions. I’m sure that some of them are involved in the concept of Lean Manufacturing in some way, even if they don’t know what it’s called. They may not think, “I’m doing this team building thing because Lean concepts WORK!” It may be more along the line of, “Things would go better if my team got along.”

Whatever the reason these businesses focus on team building, it all comes down to the same ideal, “Happy employees mean a more productive line.”

The Power of Human Energy ( Teams )

The principles of Lean Manufacturing point to a CEO’s dream of production lines smoothly rolling along and a healthy bottom line. While some focus on Taiichi Ohno’s Seven Wastes, however, there’s an eighth waste that can’t be ignored.

Taiichi Ohno’s Seven Wastes pinpoint bottlenecks in the work process. Transportation, inventory, overproduction, waiting, unnecessary motion, defects (Q&A) and inappropriate processing can all cause waste. The biggest waste of all, however (and one not listed by Taiichi), is the power of human energy; the power of teams.

The Shift to Lean Manufacturing Takes Teamwork

Shifting to Lean Manufacturing is often – if not always – a major undertaking. Whether a large or small task, however, there’s no doubt that it takes a real effort in change management. This is even more true when updating the productivity of your plant or company means changing how workers do things.

In short, you can’t assume that your employees – who may have been doing this job the same way for years – are as on board with a Lean plant as you are. Teamwork is vital to making things happen.

Team Building Through the Levels

It’s not enough to throw an office party for the people on the third floor that work so hard to get billing out the door. It’s not enough to give management a Christmas bonus for work done well. It’s not enough to have Employee of the Month on the plant floor. While all of these are great examples of good management principles, none of these are enough.

The problem with the above incentive programs is that they target specific levels of the production focus. Billing/Payroll, management, white collar, blue collar… at a time when you’re trying to facilitate a major change throughout the entire plant, you’re dividing the members of your team.

Blur the lines of management and employees.

Team building activities and incentives don’t have to target just a specific level of employee. In fact, some of the most productive team building activities we’ve provided have blurred the lines between management and employees.

Look – no matter what level of employee, the whole company has to get behind Lean Manufacturing for it to work. Giving your employees a chance to share their thoughts on how the plant might work better helps them invest in your plant. -And an invested employee is a more productive employee.