by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

The Lean Together® working group from North Central graduates from Alpha Precision Group and St Marys Carbon. Missing from photo are grads from Atlas Pressed Metals and PC Systems. Far left is Bob Zaruta, NWIRC President and far right is program facilitator, Craig Corsi

Congratulations to our manufacturers in Elk and Clearfield counties who recently concluded the NWIRC Lean Together™ program in that region. You are to be commended for your desire and commitment to have a workplace environment that encourages and enables all employees to play a significant role in the continuous improvement and success of your company. As a result of your commitment, and how well your employees responded and embraced 2 Second Lean practices, you have already realized impressive results even though your journey began just seven months ago.

For those unfamiliar, Lean Together™ is our working group of regional manufacturers desiring to build and sustain a culture of operational excellence. A culture where all employees are engaged in small incremental improvements as part of their every day job. The program is based on a collaborative learning platform that enables companies to help one another, concepts from the book 2 Second Lean by Paul Akers, and insightful classroom instruction and onsite assistance by a continuous improvement expert.

During the program’s closing session, I listened carefully to each company share their progress, accomplishments, and next steps in their journey. I heard repeated talk of increased transparency and the positive reaction from employees as they gained a better understanding of the company’s business. I heard how internal barriers between individuals and groups were dissolving and how trust was growing beyond expectations. I heard how teaching and engaging employees is impacting practices and behaviors in increasingly positive ways. If that is not enough, I heard how the newly implemented company practices like ‘drumbeat meetings’ are having a big impact on new hires. One company representative stated that new hires are gaining a quicker orientation to the company’s business, are getting to meet and interact with coworkers sooner, and are experiencing first-hand how other employees are contributing to the success of the company. Another participant said that culture matters to new hires and expects a positive impact on employee job satisfaction and retention.

Program facilitator, Craig Corsi, sums it up when he says, “Lean Together™ has accelerated these companies’ ability to transform their business cultures in such a brief period of time. It usually takes years or decades to achieve a culture shift and this program has improved their probability of success ten-fold. But it’s a two-way street…the management teams are learning to open up and share more information about the company and in return employees are becoming more focused and engaged in the improvement process.”

Again, we congratulate these manufacturers, and those in other regions of northwestern Pennsylvania that are ‘all in’ for Lean Together™ and 2 Second Lean. We look forward to your continued progress in growing your people and creating a workplace environment that improves your ability to compete, positions your companies to better attract, develop and retain talent, and grow more profitably. We also look forward to the start of our next Lean Together™ working groups and helping, watching, and acknowledging progress.