Creativity and Innovation at the front line has to be nurtured alongside the Lean methodologies by combining all the tools, philosophies, and processes. They both have to be given time and space to allow the front-line worker to be engaged and see value in the processes. This type of innovation is best suited in the process innovation methodology.
This article was written as one of the requirements to obtain the Innovation Mentor Certification at CIMp. The CIMp program is part of iVia, The Way of Innovation™, founded by The University of Notre Dame, Whirlpool Corporation and Beacon Health System. Learn more at http://innovationcertification.nd.edu/
The solution to the problem of driving and leading Innovation to the floor level and have Lean and Innovation work together is to build a network from the plants to the innovation center. This bridge closes the gap to build a process that encourages new ideas from all levels of the organization. The network is a bridge between the plants and the Innovation center. The ideas have to fit into the dig sites of the Innovation center to enable resources to put time behind developing ideas. There have to be guide rails in place to put some structure to the network. The process would be to hold Ideation sessions in a creative environment at the plants to teach others to see, walk through what ideation sessions look like, and foster ideas to build upon. The categories of innovation would be people, process, technology, new products, and environment.
Some of the tools used from Lean would be Root cause analysis, Value stream mapping, 5-why, Fish diagram, and standard work to name a few. Some of the innovative tools to use would be Ideation sessions, crowd sourcing, Insights, and prototyping. Both Lean and Innovation events would start with a Charter to frame the problem, develop inputs to be the springboard for outputs, and at the end define how to measure success.
An essential part of this solution is to have a hybrid role that combines a Lean Six Sigma and an Innovation practitioner that can teach and lead in both environments whether they are parallel or cross over and live in the same section of the enterprise at the front line as well as a liaison to the innovation center
Innovation and Lean paths have to cross and complement each other to drive the organization to excel. You can't have one without the other. In a sense, it is like breathing, you have to have the inhale and the exhale. Standard work which is defined as the current best practice helps sustain and keep incremental innovation efforts from backsliding while allowing others to take the innovation journey to the next level. Driving both methodologies to the floor and having everyone look at the process through both lenses takes the organization to challenge the norm and helps sustain innovative process.
Some of the challenges for Lean & Innovation to exist on the front line are:
1. Creating a culture that encourages Innovation and makes it a necessity throughout the enterprise
2. Re-invent the front line workers role to include innovation
3. Has to be supported from top level down
4. Plant Managers have to have more belief in Innovation at the floor level than the members on the floor
5. Giving Time & space to think and experience for the front line worker to be creative
6. Develop standard work as a placeholder to keep innovative efforts from back sliding
7. Must be a new habit
1. Gain commitment from Plant Manager for (2) hours per employee to work on Innovation
2. Create innovative space in current traditional training center
3. Hold Innovation /Ideation training to give employees the framework for session
4. Implement and teach others to see how Lean methodology & standard work intertwines with and enhances Innovation thought process.
5. Define the new thought process of the Traditional I.R.R (Internal Rate of Return) to the new Innovative I.R.R (Innovate, Refine, and Repeat).
6. Develop an I wish or How might we statement to frame a problem
7. Ideations sessions must contain Diverging and Converging methodology sections
8. No Judging of ideas during Diverging stage; Converging stage has to narrow the focus
9. Develop an Innovation Suggestion form for employees on the production floor to use.
i) This form is used to generate any type of ideas that employees have at the plant level. The innovation practitioner would separate the ideas based on process ideas that can be done at the plant level or ideas that fall into the dig sites of the Innovation center and forward them to the Innovation center to be vetted out.
An innovative tool called Lens Smashing is a way to generate ideas This is where you take two ideas and combine them to make one idea, or combine them to peak the curiosity that will create an offering of new ideas. This is taking two seemingly unrelated ideas and combining them into another idea. Think of all the unusual and interesting combinations that you could make. When you have ideation sessions, the diverging stage is to get as many ideas out there as possible. This also might spark others to build upon ideas that they heard. When you start, it is very important to have the right mix of people to help the process move forward from just the framing section.
Remember at some point and time that words are just words and that you do need to take action. The implementer is a complimentary component to the Ideator or Innovator to start the action process. The Innovator is one that thinks big picture and may overlook certain aspects of an idea. The Innovator is always looking for the possibilities that may or may not exist at the moment. The Implementer wants to put structure to the idea and wants a completed end stage. This person may jump to solution too quickly. These two help each other to do what they do best. Failures and mistakes are portals for discovery and risk is essential to growth and greatness. Innovation starts with inspiration and the need to innovate is great – the time is now.
I would like to give credit to Patrick Garinger as a Coach, mentor, and a friend. Patrick inspired and rekindled my creativity and passion for innovation. He challenged me to unlearn to learn and my only barrier to doing great things is myself. Patrick was a dreamer that I could only hope to be one day. Patrick show me that risk and failure is acceptable and always asked me about taking risk is "why wouldn't you"? He in my opinion is one of the best Innovators that I know and the people who he touched are better for meeting him