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Why competency development in Lean is Important.



Why competency development in Lean is Important.

Those experienced in Lean, know that Lean way of thinking and practice has no destination. 

For many organizations, gaining accreditation for their staff in Lean and Six Sigma (Green, Black etc.) can became a goal itself based completion of ‘projects’. We know that swimming can’t be learnt from a book and the same applies to lived knowledge of Lean thinking. This has been proved time and time again for those deeply immersed in Lean; knowledge comes from practice and application not on raw intellect.

From my own experience, Lean is a careful balance of practice, reflection (PDCA*) and using the right tools for the right circumstance. The most important perception is visual and a lean thinking asks us to ‘learn to see’ the connection in the end to end processes.

The lived practice of Lean also helps one eliminate its myths. One myth is that it preaches zero waste. This is not true – Lean is a view to removing waste that is unnecessary. Waste should be eliminated only if its root cause can be as well.  

For example, in the current climate of covid-19 it is necessary to have spare capacity and multiple sources of supplies because the systematic failure would be a greater waste. We know UK supermarkets suffered with stock outs, because of a very tight supply chains, but Italy suffered less so, because it had mitigated the risk of supply failures in a better way [ see my blog on Flexible Ops Post Covid]. Risks that are unclear (e.g. a future pandemic) will need to tolerate waste to mitigate uncertainty.

Without recognition for staff or demonstrated investment in capability, the message of Lean becomes reliant on a few evangelists and on leadership commitment. Creating a path for internal capability for staff, based on practice can be a useful investment to engage and retain staff. 

So, some recognition of capability is required. The British Standard Institute (BSI) have released a framework for Lean Capability, the ISO 18404(2015) for individuals, it is a recognition of competency (skills and abilities). The accreditation is at three roles: Practitioner, Leader and Expert. What I like is that the certification is portable it can be moved with the person when they change jobs. Knowledge is not lost, and this carried forward knowledge helps at a bigger system level, for an industry sector, a country and/or end consumer. 

Candidates will be expected to demonstrate that they have an adequate level of competence, an amalgamation of education, training, skills and experience necessary to fulfil their roles BSI – on ISO 18404.

From my previous experience I was doubtful about certification, as it felt divorced from Lean thinking. However, I now believe that it has a part to play provided it is about competency and not analytic knowledge. What I also like about this standard is that there is annual renewal where each person will need to “Prepare a portfolio of evidence of work experience” which will be required for confirmation. 

Many still question this ISO standard (see blog by Christoph Roser), seeing a conflict in standards and Lean thinking. 

My organisation, Kinetik Solutions is now offering coaching and training to help individuals in organisations gain the ISO 18404 Certification for Lean Capability.

So, in summary, many disparate certifications exist for Lean and Green Belt, without any real sustained benefit to organisations, and some would argue making things worse. The ISO 18404(2015) is yet another standard but is aligned with competency development in a sustained way, that offers recognition to individuals and organizations.

Kinetik develops your staff to the Lean ISO 18404 Standard.

*PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check Act.