Starting out

I’m not sure whether it was thinking about my own latest arrival or perhaps the accompanying sleep deprivation that caused me to reconsider my own introduction to lean at 3am on Monday. My obligatory review of website discussions again yielded the same familiar questions of ‘how do I get started?’ and ‘what are the critical factors for the success of lean?’. I’m not sure that anyone has yet found the perfect answer to these; indeed our own Steve Ward is conducting a PhD into it! As for me it was simple, learn and learn quick!

My ‘training’ consisted of a trawl through a previous company’s intranet and then out to conduct workshops the next day. This baptism of fire did have two distinct advantages. Firstly there was a real imperative for me to learn, if I didn’t I was going to fall flat on my face in front of 30 people. Second, the only thing I had to focus on was lean thinking. Whilst I am not advocating this approach as a sensible training method, I do wonder whether the combination of real need and concentrated effort provided me with a better and quicker understanding than some of the alternatives.

So, given that my introduction was not the best, I return to the eternal question of “how do you start?” Again from personal reflection I chose to learn as many tools as possible. My strategy was that theory could wait and tools were anyway far more interesting. This may be a personal trait, pareto, data analysis, visual management, 5C were all things that I could get me head around and teeth into. The philosophy of continuous improvement was something rather more ethereal   and besides, sounded rather like “consultants speak” and not for a civil engineer like myself.

The focus on tools seemed to work for me, I tried things out, some worked and some didn’t. I learnt a few more tools and slowly progressed from there. In time I came to consider in more detail the philosophy, the mindset change required, the organization transformation that needs to happen to fully implement lean. These are crucial but much more difficult to tackle from a complete novice standpoint. For what its worth, I now value both.

So for me, what is important for a start into lean construction?  The boldness to have a go; the willingness to learn new tricks and a bit of dedication to see things through. I suppose the same is true of any new venture and I can only hope that my new son has all three attributes in spades.