I am framing the title both as a question and a statement. By the end of the article I hope you discover which form is best for your organization.
Do all of your do-it-yourself (DIY) projects work out as planned? Take one experience from my writing. Besides being a writer for FDMC, I am also an author. I have written a couple of books on lean and my business partner and I are working on a third one. I also write inspirational books. One of my inspirational books was uploaded as an eBook in January.
The instruction manual for formatting, editing, and uploading the book is 117 pages. What a laborious process it was to prepare the book, but after several days and many frustrating hours, I finally had it ready to upload. Everything went smoothly until I decided to test the process myself to see how the book appeared on a reading device. I discovered that although everything looked good as a Word document, pictures that I embedded didn't anchor in the right spot. The pictures floated within the pages. Several more hours later I had a file that was formatted correctly, but I didn't care for its appearance. I'm still learning how to decipher some of the lingo that goes along with DIY publishing so maybe the next book will format properly and look better too.


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Following instructions

I shared that story with you because it is very similar to what some managers wind up with when they attempt to implement lean, especially if they do it in a vacuum. There are a lot of instruction manuals available to guide you through a DIY lean transformation. In fact, my books and all of the articles I have written over the past 15 years are intended to help you in the lean journey. There is even a Lean for Dummies book on the market.
However, most of the books, including my own, are intended for an audience that has some experience with lean. Like my eBook instruction manual, lean books are written by experts who have a good understanding of the lingo, tools, and techniques so a lot of the fine-print and step-by-step detail is left out because we know what we mean so no explanation should be necessary.
In previous articles I wrote about Brad Cairns, the CEO of Signature Wood Systems in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Brad is the most knowledgeable businessman in lean thinking of anyone I have encountered. Brad is very capable of going through his factory like a bull in a china shop giving directions to people to improve their processes and increase productivity, but that won't ensure lasting change. Without a sensei to guide all of the stakeholders on the lean journey Brad's effort was doomed for failure.

Missing link

The missing link in Brad's case was the 6Es of Lean (Enlist, Enable, Engage, Excite, Empower, and Encourage), which you will only find detailed in the FDMC archives of my articles on leading in a lean environment. Unless everyone in the organization is able to speak the same language, and apply the various, and numerous, tools and techniques of Lean in their own processes, and, as necessary, at a team level, the success of a Lean transformation will be limited.
Can you do it yourself? Sure you can! If you are a knowledgeable and experienced lean practitioner you should be able to facilitate the process at your company, provided you don't have any other distractions that reduce the time you have available to develop all of the other change agents in the company - every employee that is. About 15 years ago the CEO of a company asked me to be VP of Manufacturing and also lead their lean transformation. I told him that even though I have manufacturing management experience and am an expert in lean, I would not be able to do justice to both of those responsibilities simultaneously. I would fail at one and succeed at the other, or maybe fail at both.

Dedicated resources

Launching a successful and sustaining lean journey requires a dedicated resource. Once lean thinking is engrained in the staff, and there are training programs in place so new employees can assimilate into the lean culture, the lean leader can take on other responsibilities.
A manufacturing manager called me recently to ask my advice on implementing lean at his new company. He claimed to have lean experience and that the owner had hired him to manage day-to-day operations as well as transform the company to the lean business model. My response was what I stated above. We jointly determined that his best approach would be to gather all of the current-state information available to better understand where the company is, what their strengths are, their weaknesses, the improvement opportunities available and any threats to sustaining a lean initiative (a lean SWOT analysis).
Then he needed to understand the CEO’s objectives for the future-state. If he knows where the company is now and where the CEO wants the company to go, he can determine how to use lean thinking to bridge the gap. Then I suggested he bring in a sensei to verify his findings, validate his plan, and help him launch the company on the lean journey with everyone understanding and working toward the same goals and objective.

Is DIY lean for you?

Should you do it yourself? Certainly. Every company that I have launched on the lean journey is now self-sustaining, including Brad's. Everyone knows the lingo, they understand how to use the tools and techniques of lean to make positive change happen, and their leadership team is ready, willing, and able to provide support.
At various stages of my eBook formatting process there were notes offering support from experts who could transform my manuscript into a polished product with less effort and deliver professional results for a small fee. I was determined to do it myself! I will be formatting a new lean book soon that has a lot of charts, graphs, and pictures in it. I think I will use an expert this time. Maybe you should consider obtaining the help of an expert to get off to the right start on the Lean journey and then do it yourself on the sustainment side.
By the way, check out my new website and blog at www.thecenterforleanlearning org. It is another resource at your disposal.

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