Value is at the heart of the Lean methodology. Specifically, Lean focuses on creating more value for the customer and eliminating anything that doesn’t provide value for the customer. It challenges us to consider what the customer is willing to pay for and what they aren’t. This idea is applied to everything from how parts are transported to the assembly line to the features on the final product itself. The most successful Lean projects produce results that bring the organization closer to what the customer wants.
Who is the customer?
Lean is for the whole process. The “customer” can be the end customer who uses the final product or the next person in the production process. The logic is that if you can make the next person’s job easier, that can reduce waste and cost to the end customer. The customer might also be another department or a leadership team. Before your project begins, take some time to identify who your customers are and how they would most like to learn about your results.
How and How
There are at least two ways to look at this. It could mean how you display the results of your project, as in their visual representation. It could also mean how you make sure the results are meaningful for your target group. Both perspectives are important. Together, they will make all the difference in the support for this project.
One of the main tools for displaying the results of a Lean project is the A3,which is a succinct one-pager that also shows what needs to happen, when, and how. Most of its content is created at the beginning of the project. It is then used to guide the project and is updated as the project progresses. The A3 is also helpful in updating key stakeholders as needed, including urgent requests. It’s best for shorter or simpler projects.
Other ways to communicate the results of a Lean project, or really any project, are through the regular communication channels in your organization, such as on stand-up boards and email blasts. Get creative and think of ways to make the team’s efforts stand out. Some organizations post the project details near the area where the project took place. This can be especially helpful, because it can also recognize the team who worked on the project. If your facility is one that gets a lot of tours, this kind of communication tool can be a great conversation starter and highlights the work even if no one is standing there to tell the visitors. On the flipside, make sure that any information posted is cleared for whoever might see it.
No matter which tool you choose, the information needs to be easy to read, clear, and appropriate for the audience. Every organization is a little different and you are in the best position to know, or learn, how your co-workers prefer to receive information and what’s appropriate where you work.
If you’re not sure how to share the results of your project, ask someone who has gone through this before. It’s important to get it right, because whether or not people understand what you and your team achieved will affect how well they will support its ongoing success and possibly future projects. Don’t let a little confusion keep you from accomplishing more.
In the case of aligning your project results with the organization’s goals, whether that’s the project team or the whole organization, this conversation needs to happen before the project begins and throughout it. Just like all the research that goes into designing the final product, it’s important to understand what people want and the problem you’re trying to solve before you start building a solution.
Bring the project team together and brainstorm who else needs to be included. Once you have everyone, consider others who may have valuable insights or important perspectives that will help shape the project itself. Including everyone up front can help reduce confusion and delayed input later in the project. We’ve all been part of at least a few projects where someone who was left out in the beginning brings in information that changes the project later. That’s an excellent chance to waste time and money. On top of that, it can be frustrating for the team, which may discourage people from joining similar projects in the future.
With all of this input, your team is ready to design and execute a project that produces results that resonate with the organization and add value in a way that makes sense for the customer. It can also help as the project goes along if unforeseen questions or obstacles arise. Building those relationships and getting the buy-in up front means that your team has a wider variety of support to draw on when they need it.The key to showing the results of a Lean project is really all about understanding the customer and what they want. Produce the right results through a well-designed and thought-out project and be able to tell people about it in a way that makes sense to them.