“What is lean?” must be answered. The best way to do this is to tell/post lean stories. After a few lean stories are told, employees will be asked to submit their lean stories. Employees have a choice: place your lean stories in the suggestion box or give them to your supervisor. Appropriate lean stories will be posted/told.
Employees/management will learn every lean story starts with an irritation. At this point, we will ask employees to examine what tasks irritates them. Employees have a choice: place your irritations in the suggestion box or give them to your supervisor.
Irritations are placed on a bulletin board above the suggestion box. Customer irritations are also posted. Employees are urged to submit feedback. If you have info that might help in solving the problem, place it in the suggestion box or give it to your supervisor. If you have a suggestion, place it in the suggestion box or give it to your supervisor.
Management must be held accountable for appraising suggestions. Each suggestion form has room for comments by three supervisors/managers. The suggestion then goes to the appropriate manager for approval/rework/denial. To make good judgements, supervisors/managers are encouraged to go to the gemba and ask questions. To hold the plant accountable, suggestion forms are numbered and must be sent to corporate. The CEO will read the best suggestions and will randomly select a few to read. When you fill out that comment section, remember the CEO might read it.
The ideal situation is employees trust management and submit stories/irritations/comments/suggestions to their leaders. If this is the situation you find yourself in, congratulations. The quality of the stories/irritations/comments/suggestions will identify immediate training needs.
A more likely scenario is employees only trust certain supervisors/managers. For example, Sally’s team quickly submitted several impressive lean stories. She is already doing what we want. Her team participated in both identifying irritations and problem resolution. Sally’s team did not use the suggestion box. Sally’s team describes her as “very helpful.” Sally has identified two employees who need a more challenging position. Needless to say, Sally will be a key leader in our lean transformation. Two maintenance department employees submitted several good suggestions; they used the suggestion box. Ben did a great job appraising suggestions. Two canning supervisors show promise. I would feel good about this outcome.
You are in a dire situation. The only feedback received from employees were complaints about management, left anonymously in the suggestion box. Your best option is to focus on hiring lean leaders. This means overhauling the hiring process. A good start is to have applicants submit lean stories. Lean leaders should have lean stories.