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Lean management practices and associated tools are used to influence job performance to achieve its characteristically high quality standards. These tools are implemented by managers who are trained in lean concepts and they are passed on throughout the organization from employee to employee. Different metrics or tools may be used for different objectives and there may also be certain tools that are more suited to particular areas of the organization, but they all come together for the greater good to advocate greater quality with less wastage of time and money. The following discussion highlights lean management practices and job performance benefits that can be expected if the tools are used properly.
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The 5 Whys
This tool is common under the Six Sigma Methodology but it is also used in lean management environments. It is deceptively simple, but is capable of producing great results in a short space of time. All children instinctively understand and know how to use the 5 whys method, but somewhere along the road to adulthood this method is pushed to the side, luckily lean management principles have resurrected this useful tool. The premise is to continue asking the question "why" until the root cause of the problem is found. Often the cause the problem can be unearthed with less than five whys, but sometimes a little further probing may be necessary, so the number five is simply a loose suggestion, although this is the name of the method. This practice can improve job performance by putting the focus on the real problem area and shortening the timeframe for finding a solution.
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Value Stream Mapping
Value stream mapping is a lean management technique that is used to fine-tune the process of getting the end product to the consumer. The procedure is to look closely at the entire process from start to finish and identify and eliminate non-value added activities. These non-value added activities may be found within individual work process but they are usually concentrated at the hand-over point between process stages. The main result of implementing this lean management practice is decreasing the lead-time between stages and improving job performance. The entire process become tighter and more compact which inevitably means the consumer is satisfied in a shorter timeframe than was previously possible.
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Poka Yoke or Mistake-Proofing
"Poka yoke" is a Japanese term because the concept is of Japanese origin. This is a very important concept that is central to the lean management ideology. Lean management understands that people are not mistake-proof by nature and as a matter of fact individuals should be expected to make errors along the way. The novel idea is that as a response to understanding lean management advocates that the process itself should strive to be flawless to reduce the number of human errors. One practical application of poka yoke in lean manufacturing is the automatic shut down of machinery when oil or fluid levels drop to dangerous levels. The system provides a fail safe mechanism so that human error does not make the situation worse.
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One of the most popular performance metrics used in lean management environments is the balanced scorecard. This management practice is used to improve job performance by providing the tools to identify expected levels of performance and map personal progress against the norm within the company. The balanced scorecard can be a motivational tool because it helps each employee to identify strengths alongside areas that may need improvement, but there are always suggestions on how to increase scores in certain areas that are both self-driven and suggested by supervisors or managers. This type of metric is also commonly used as a way to determine bonus payments and other incentives, which are also a way of boosting job performance.
Lean management practices and job performance are strongly intertwined because there is a keen awareness that the tools or practices used influence the performance or outcome. These tools are all ways of improving the quality of performance in a lean management environment.
Image: renjith krishnan (FreeDigitalPhotos)