There are so many benefits to be gained from going Lean, that it can almost seem illogical for anyone to oppose Lean or for there to be any barriers to its successful implementation, but in reality there are many barriers that can be faced by any organisation that is implementing Lean.

The first barrier is undoubtedly related to staff and personnel. Without all the workforce behind Lean and without their commitment to Lean, it will be an uphill struggle to successfully implement it within the company. In particular senior management need to be committed to it as a philosophy, management strategy and as the overall framework in which they will do business.

Any organisation that implements Lean without the full commitment of the management team is almost doomed to fail, so management are vital to the process.

The Shopfloor and Lean

But Lean has to be adopted and believed in by all sections of the workforce, if management believes in it, but staff do not, then again, it will be difficult to successfully implement Lean. Staff can effectively put a clog in the wheels of production or manufacturing so they are vital links in the process.

Resistance To Change

Any organisation will have some staff who are resistant to change. No matter how beneficial the changes may be, they will oppose them almost on principle, so these staff have to be targeted specifically because their resistance can act as a significant barrier to Lean.

Roots And Branch Philosophy

Lean has to be a roots and branch philosophy. In a sense, people have to live and breathe Lean and it has to permeate all the activities and roles within the organisation. If it is implemented in a piecemeal fashion or in certain parts of an organisation only, then it will face barriers. All parts of the organisation, including the administrative and supportive sections need to adopt Lean. It is a radical approach and one that should be embraced fully, so that it can be a success.

Lack Of Planning

Lean has to be planned. If Lean is suggested on Monday and implemented on Tuesday, then this is not just a barrier, but it is a recipe for disaster. Planning is essential for it to be a structured process; it simply cannot be rushed in to or done in a way that has not been carefully thought out, or else it will simply falter and no one will actually understand the strategy or what is being done.

Training goes hand in hand with planning and if there is insufficient training then staff will not be behind the process and no one will fully understand it, so training really has to be undertaken; by everyone!

Unwillingness To Learn and See

Central to the philosophy of Lean is the need for those who are involved in the process to learn from things that go wrong, to see where waste exists and to keep looking, learning and improving continuously.

This sounds easy in theory, but in fact relies on those involved being able to learn, see and aim for continuous improvements. Yet it can be tempting to gloss over negative issues and to ‘leave things be’ when in fact, to do so will not lead to improvements and will not reduce any waste. So there has to be a culture created where mistakes can be recognised and rectified leading to improvements, as opposed to a culture where mistakes are simply identified in order to apportion blame!

Thus there are many barriers to Lean, but these need to be viewed in context; the benefits of Lean are immense, with the barriers actually being easily surmounted.

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