Updated: Oct 2, 2019
The precursor to Lean management was introduced to Americans in the movie, Gung Ho in 1986. Our Clash with the Work-Culture of Japan is (in my opinion) best expressed with the following dialogue:
Kazihiro: "In Japan, when production lags, worker stays longer in factory." Hunt Stevenson: "Okay, overtime. We can talk about overtime. I understand it now." Kazihiro: "They do not do it for pay. They do it for company." Hunt Stevenson: "Yeah, but that's there, this is here." Audrey: "Gentlemen, this is an American factory. They're never gonna go for that."
This demonstrates a really important concept of the Lean model. First, the idea that your employees take pride in the work they do. Kazihiro expects a lot of his new American staff and expects them to be motivated by their pride; not just their paycheck. Lean management focuses on leveraging off of the passion and the knowledge of your workers.
It needs mentioning that Gung-Ho is not a totally accurate representation of Lean management, so please don't utilize it as a training video. In addition, the private sector has changed a great deal since '86. Now, according to the plethora of articles released by the GFOA, so has the public sector.
Just type the word "lean" in the search bar of the GFOA website and you will be presented with about a hundred resources for converting your reporting team into a lean machine.
So what is Lean?
I'm going to provide a quick summary of the GFOA's Getting Started Guide for lean, an article titled Lean: Achieving Critical Mass.
First of all, let's talk about Lean Culture. Lean Culture consists of 3 major concepts: Kaizen, Gemba, and the role of management and workers.
1.) Kaizen: Kaizen can be roughly translated into "change for the better". A "Kaizen Event" is how a process or work area is improved to become leaner. There are six steps to a Kaizen Event:
Select the process or work area to Improve
Set a goal
Analyze the current state of this area
Find Solutions, Design the future state
Prepare and implement an action plan
Measure the impact vs. original goal
2.) Gemba: Gemba means "a place where the action happens". This refers to the workplace. In Lean culture, it is very important that the decision-makers of your team are on the work floor. They need to have an understanding of how things are done, how they work and their team dynamics. Lean culture does not condone decision-makers initiating change without gaining the perspective and understanding of their workers. (this concept is not present in "Gung Ho, by the way) A "Gemba Walk" is the manager's act of being in the place where the work is being done.
3.) The role of Management & Workers: In Lean Culture, workers are assumed to have unique and important insights into how work is performed. Workers are considered to be (and expected to be) "enthusiastic participants" in Kaizen and other work-related activities.
Lean has the following Goals:
Add Value for the Customer
Eliminate/ Reduce Waste (see Exhibit 1 in the article, it's great!!)
Lean Utilizes the following Tools the Five "S" (5s):
Sort: Utilize process mapping tools like a Swim Lane Diagram
Set in Order: Utilize visual management tools to "keep managers and staff connected to the realities of the workplace, rather than operating on assumptions" (ref pg 16).
Shine: Do as much mistake-proofing as you can by eliminating as many possibilities of human error.
Standardize: The improvements won't stick if they are not incorporated into standard operating procedures.
Sustain: Keep it official so it stays the way of the workplace.
So this sounds great for the private sector, but why go Lean if you work in a governmental Entity?
With recessions and increased demand to streamline the public sector, Lean is becoming an increasingly beneficial tool. Lean has real, tangible benefits.
Lean means that improvement is Incremental and Continuous.
It reduces costs.
It's a pro-employee culture that creates a friendly and collaborative work environment.
Lean focuses on customer value. Let's pretend "customers" = other departments and decision-makers. When those you report to can feel your value, who knows what rewards your team may reap?
According to the GFOA, the Lean process is wholly under-appreciated in the public sector.
Please Utilize the GFOA's Resources on Lean procedures, everything you need to incorporate these procedures into your governmental reporting team can be found on their website: