Director, Recruiting and Human Resources

Human Capital Management and Lean Transformation Go Hand-in-Hand

April 9, 2012  11:19 am

There are two primary dimensions of managing your human capital―Strategic and Administrative. These same components also play an important role in Lean Transformation where skilled “people involvement” before, during and then ongoing can make a huge difference.

It’s common for organizations to begin their Lean journeys focusing on production, operations and Lean tools. It’s only after toiling at it for a couple of years that they realize they should’ve focused sooner on the human capital aspects of creating lasting change. Commonalities between operational improvement and managing involvement are significant, particularly with regard to three critical work streams often overseen by the Human Resources (HR) arm of human capital, notably:

  • Resource Management (People)
  • Process Understanding and Documentation
  • Internal / Employee Communications

Let’s discuss these.

Internal / Employee Communications | Throughout a transformational journey, you can’t do too much communicating. That’s right―you cannot over communicate. One of HR’s main responsibilities is to interact regularly with all talent, including leadership, management, staff and production. Strategic-minded organizations take advantage of the fact that HR is already a primary interface with people already inside the organization. HR can be a strong ally in getting the message out about what’s important to the organization. And, at the same time, they can evaluate how the message is being interpreted based on the feedback they receive.

HR plays an integral role in driving message consistency and feedback across the organization. Take advantage of this valuable resource by building them into your Lean plan.

Process Understanding and Documentation | The top three rules of HR (in order of priority) are to launch with documentation, continue to document and then close by documenting. As it turns out, factual documentation―especially process documentation―is a key ingredient in Lean transformation, as well. So, why not engage HR early on by doing some Lean projects and activities inside HR? This realizes several benefits, among them:

  • Awareness: It involves HR staff in a tangible way so that they get and can convey insights that are only achievable through direct, first-hand experience
  • Discipline: Those involved gain an understanding of and can better support process documentation requirements expected of the entire organization as Lean efforts accelerate
  • Results: HR realizes meaningful improvement inside their own business process that enable the rest of the organization. For an example, see our case study on Time to Hire.

HR can be more effective when they are directly involved in the real work of waste elimination.

Resource Management (People) | Lean is a people system above all else. Sure, Lean’s improvement techniques are compelling. Yet, at the end of the day, Lean is even more about predictably engaging your people in effective, sustainable waste elimination inside processes that they can influence and control. One of HR’s tasks deals with helping develop your organization’s most important asset―its people. Thus, HR can help with three aspects of managing human capital that are paramount for success:

  • Selecting the right people for key roles in the transformation effort: These are the change agents that will shape and guide your efforts. Initially, technical ability is less important than the ability to deal with people and manage change.
  • Integrating individual performance measures and the organization’s Lean objectives:This key driver is often not recognized until very late in the game—sometimes years later. Ultimately, organizations come to realize and apply the understanding that what gets measured gets fixed, even at the level of personal performance. Be sure to integrate personal goals and objectives for Lean inside your performance review process.
  • Understand when individuals are blocking the effort: Resistance is normal. Understanding and dealing with it directly will save you significant time and avoid resource-depleting false starts.

Select key people for attitude and train for ability. Keep objectives and measures in front of everyone. Lead change and don’t hesitate to quickly address uncertainty.

Remember the journey to creating a sustainable Lean culture starts and sustains with clear communication, process understanding and documentation, and, having the right resources onboard. It’s imperative to get your HR team involved upfront to accelerate your organization’s human capital performance, and with that, enjoy a more productive and harmonious Lean transformation.

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Stumbleupon Pinterest Digg Email
  • andy herdan

    It’s heartening to see some long-overdue focus on the role that H/R needs to play in the implementation of Lean. On the many occasions when I have had the opportunity to create organization-wide function maps (Bubble Charts), the area invariably identified as needing the most improvement is H/R. Similarly, some of the most dramatic changes through Kaizen Events have been those focused on H/R. Exciting Stuff!!