Case: Cultural Transformation
An American manufacturer of equipment for installation of cables and pipes had stalled their implementation of lean. Similar to many companies the implementation was limited to manufacturing. The family owned company was founded in the 1940s and still has the main facility in a small rural town in the American mid-west.
The company has about 1300 employees and a turnover of about $400 million US.
Suffering from late deliveries and a large inventory of parts and finished machines as well as an old fashioned production strategy, the company was in need of changing and improving their manufacturing to maintain their competitive edge.
Primarily engaging SAM to address issues in product development and to improve the flow of new products to manufacturing and the market, the company recognized SAM’s emphasis in a common mind-set and SAM’s implementation methodology. The need for the company was to make a more fundamental cultural change to address their issues.
Change begins and ends at the top of an organization. With that in mind the management team together with SAM began to discuss and reflect on the company culture, including its history and heritage. It was a history of success including the mind-set and the way to do things, but over time it had not adjusted to reflect changes in the market place. The question at hand was what the essence in the company’s history was that had made it successful. The essence discovered in that work was combined with a vision of the needs to be fulfilled in order to establish future long term success. From the reflection and discussions a set of principles surfaced to support a definition for a common view, mind-set and strategy. The principles are now the foundation for the development of the company and reaches across all parts of the company, from manufacturing, sales and product development to support functions such as finance and human resources.
Mandatory training for all managers and leaders through reflections and discussions concerning the principles was carried out in groups. The discussions had a close connection to the real operation. Within the cross-functional discussion groups an atmosphere of affinity and understanding of the issues and challenges of other parts of the company evolved. The discussions alone have resulted in improvements in better flow, reduced inventory and better communication, as well as a new view of the opportunities that lie ahead.
SAM became deeply involved in the change process, by being present and available right in the middle of the everyday operation, as support and coach to individuals on all levels of the company.