The culture change is necessary for a business when the current culture interferes with required efficiency. In this context, culture includes a wide range of individual, group, and corporate characteristics that shape the approach to work, operation, planning, development, implementation, and other components of production. Culture change is especially important, and the need for it is especially evident, when different cultures collide within one production system.
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For the case of GM and Toyota collaboration, the culture change was associated with redefining the concept of problems (Shook 68). Lean manufacturing is based on the idea of exposing problems. They are not regarded as obstacles on the way to success but as the essential component of any development. The lean manufacturing process is about constant problem-solving. Therefore, it is crucial to organize the work in a way that challenges are clearly pronounced and learning from them affects further activities.
For the Toyota Production System, the lean cultural shift was to make it “easy to see problems, easy to solve problems, and easy to learn from mistakes” (Shook 68). This only became possible after changing the attitude towards problems and mistakes. This is the lean manufacturing transformation.
I strongly believe that, in any business, culture change is the most difficult kind of change. Modification of certain mentality and longstanding traditions of interactions in different societies is more challenging than organizational or structural modification. I think cultural transformation would be very hard in my area. However, there are ways to achieve culture change in an organization efficiently and relatively quickly. What is needed is to change what people do rather than trying to change how they think (Shook 65). By providing employees with means to perform qualitatively different functions or operate differently, an organization facilitates culture change.
Marchwinski describes the lean approach as highly beneficial in various ways and as one from which “a variety of industries are reaping big gains” (20). Lean production ensures better efficiency, higher quality, quicker operation, and more profit. The author stresses that lean thinking, although it originated in the cars industry, can be applied to a wide range of businesses besides conveyor-belt productions. Obviously, lean transformation can be challenging and requires a lot of resources, but it is suggested that, after certain adjustments, the business will ultimately benefit from such a transformation.
The lean transformation is based on four customer-oriented principles: meeting the customer’s needs, operating within the optimal timeframe, lowering the cost, and increasing the quality (Marchwinski 20). It is important that such a transformation requires changes in all the areas and at every stage of production: partial application of lean techniques will only gain partial success. These techniques are changeover reduction, mistake-proofing, and Kaizen. Kaizen means continuous improvement based on the concept of constant modification of existing practices through exposing their weaknesses and addressing the weaknesses with maximum managerial dedication.
For example, lean production suggests conducting constant analysis of the use of space and generation of waste for the purpose of waste reduction and increasing the effectiveness of utilizing resources. Another key concept of the lean transformation is continuous flow production. Unlike the model where planning, preparation, implementation, and evaluation follow each other in a linear decision-making process, lean thinking suggests a cyclic model where these processes are continuous, simultaneous, and repetitive (Marchwinski 21). The major benefit of such an approach is that it ensures that production processes, as well as communication and problem-solving, are performed more rapidly with lesser costs.
Marchwinski, Chet. “Get Lean: Cut the Fat in Your Shop with Lean Manufacturing.” Cast Polymer Connection 5.1 (2003): 20-22.
Shook, John. “How to Change a Culture: Lessons from NUMMI.” MIT Sloan Management Review 51.2 (2010): 63-68.