Lean, like most continuous improvement strategies, is constantly looking to eliminate problems and improve the way things are done. The lean philosophy has a focus on eliminating waste and defects, and regardless of the type of company lean is used in, this is an endless task. No matter how efficient a facility becomes, there will always be places where there can be further improvement. Perfection is not something which can actually be attained by humans, or by machines which are made by humans.
It is important, however, that this does not discourage us in our pursuit of perfection. Each time we succeed in eliminating waste from a process, or improving the way something is done, we get that much closer to that ever elusive goal. When one problem is eliminated, it will open up the possibility of eliminating other problems. Some types of waste which were not even acknowledged in the past, are now being targeted for improvement today.
Why Reach for Perfection
The goal of perfection will never be reached, but it is essential to strive for none the less. When a facility has such a lofty goal, it can work as a target to keep people focused. People will be less likely to start getting off track on what they should be working toward. All the accomplishments which are made, are the result of having this goal of becoming perfect in mind. Without the impossible goal, the rest of the accomplishments become almost impossible.
Lean is not about tricking people into working hard by dangling the unattainable reward of perfection in front of them. It is that lean strategies freely acknowledge the fact that the improvement efforts will never be complete. It allows each facility to celebrate each victory, no matter how large or small, on the road to perfection, even while understanding that the road will never end. It presents a constant challenge which people can work to overcome, and along the way, there will be plenty of rewards available for anyone who works for them.
When a facility is working on implementing the lean strategies, they must make an effort to bring the lean strategies into the culture of the company. It can’t be enough to set out a goal of eliminating all waste and defects, because everyone recognizes that this is an impossible task. By creating a culture which can celebrate even small improvements, it is possible to get everyone to work together to improve the way things are done.
In the end, lean is successful largely because it will never be finished. It is impossible to win at the game of lean, but it is that constant challenge which allows companies to make improvements over time. When managed properly, the lean strategies can change the way a facility works, and get everyone to focus on constant improvement, which, is the only path toward perfection.