Based on your description I cannot tell what you have done in the 5 years, and know nothing about your processes. As a general rule focusing on training people in visualizing, analyzing and solving problems is a great thing, particularly training managers. In our new book on Developing Lean Leadership the Toyota Way we describe how to develop leaders and we are arguing that they need to be trained in just what you describe. The model begins with “self development of managers.” They must want to become leaders of change toward concrete goals and to learn the problem solving approach. Then they can develop others who report up to them and lead projects within their area of responsibility (vertically) and across the company (horizontally). Each project they work on should lead to business results, as well as deeper skill for them and those they are teaching. As you develop a critical mass of trained people you can establish a daily management system. As Samuel mentioned, it is critical that there are clear standards, plans to increase the standards as each work group grows in their capability, and checks of the process by management at all levels. Now you are on the way to a culture of continuous improvement. With some level of skill you are prepared to align goals through hoshin kanri. aka policy deployment). Through challenging goals, well through out plans for achieving those goals, and then constant problem solving to get closer and closer to the targets for improvement, the business can become adaptive and learning and meet serious challenges from the environment. It is through the process of mentoring and leading teams to achieve challenging goals that amazing things are accomplished and there is growing momentum as success feeds on success.
One of the biggest pitfalls is when the aggressive business goals are set at the top and simply cascaded down and managers sink or swim based on achieving the executive’s goals. This is the Management by Objectives approach. In this case there is usually not good problem solving, people are not engaged, and they are not learning. But aggressive managers can find ways to reach the goals, such as cost reduction, often damaging the people and processes as they go. In one company we work with they took an aggressive approach under a lean leader who believed in pushing people who lacked the skills. He was eventually pushed out by the COO who said the approach did lead to change, but there were a lot of dead bodies along the way. He now wants to shift to a better approach that includes very targeted hoshin kanri and managers taught, learning by doing, how to achieve the targets in the right way. The right way is thoughtfully following PDCA and engaging people in the process. It also requires training in basic lean principles and tools along the way to solving the problems. Over time the leaders get stronger and the company gets stronger, but it takes a lot of effort, reflection, adjustment, and learning.
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