Win the Restart Battle!

Don’t just restart; make it better than before the crisis.

Recovering and restarting service or manufacturing operations is an enormous task in standard times and now is more difficult than ever before. Blending Crisis Management, Lean Technology, and Dynamic Leadership for maximum optimization and improved performance is a great way to start recovering. Here are six keys from three different topics with proven results, that when put together can catapult your organization into the future.

1 – Training and re-training will be essential.

Review or establish a new Jobs Skills Matrix to identify the critical skills needed in your manufacturing and services processes. Some functions will have to be redefined in the new working environment, and some retraining may be required. Not all previous employees will return, and new people will need to be hired. Evaluation of the newly hired employees may mean a slower production as the restart begins, and it should be expected. Re-assess the jobs of skilled returning employees who may become trainers or team leaders to guide the development of the new employees. Training departments can use Training Within Industries (TWI) methodology and will need to be kept up to date on those functions that have changed because of the crisis or shutdown.

“The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

There can be benefits taken from this virus and the shutdown period. Managers can challenge teams not only to recover but also to set new production levels not reachable before. It is a great time to listen to the suggestions of employees from all levels as they readdress their work requirements and looks for ways to make it better and more efficient. They worked together before, now they have survived together, and in the near future they will be successful together again. This is the positive message that leaders at all levels need to be emphasizing.

2 – Build new Value Stream Maps for potential improvement opportunities.

The new layouts, process steps, and material flow all need to go through a Value Stream Map to identify potential improvements. Where previous old established non-value process steps were holding back efficiencies, now is a great time to eliminate or shorten them.

This is a great time to do another Lean Assessment and identify the hidden wastes within the processes. Movement between operators and operations will give a new look to the transportation wastes that existed before. Streamline the distances and directional flow of operations to reduce the non-value multiple handling. Use visual controls to track new waiting time waste between processes and work to shorten or eliminate this non-value waste. During start-up and recovery, the Managers and Supervisors will be spending more than normal time in the work areas and they can identify over production and production shortages during Daily Gemba Walks. Masters should review internal upstream processes and internal downstream processes and do line balancing to smooth the flow through their own areas of responsibility.

With changed or new processes, there will be increased stress and unknown opportunities for failures and for improvements. Those workers and team leaders who are the closest to the operations or services should be encouraged to try new things and make suggestions. The root causes of existing processes can be challenged by asking the 5-Whys to identify the root causes.

3 – Dynamic Leadership Skills Needed

This restart will require good Leadership. Dynamic Leadership is more than just leadership… it is “Leadership in Action”. The implementation of Dynamic Leadership competencies requires that the Leader is actively involved in the restart. Making fact-based decision and being open to innovative ideas is critical when restarting begins. Good listening skills are usually only used after we realize that the workers are not robots and have ideas and feelings just like we do. Asking other to support the restart and give more than their 100% requires us to lead the way and do it first. We should never ask the workers to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves.

It will be important to have frequent “town-hall” meetings with everyone in the organization. Weekly or bi-weekly meeting where anyone can ask questions and get answers. Giving your mid-level managers a chance to manage new startup projects will help them to develop the skills they will need in the future. Giving them constructive feedback and all of your support will increase the chances of their success. You will need to understand that you can not demand an increase output to make up for loss production. You will need to build a working environment that encourages people at all levels to be motivated to work towards the organization’s success. Being a Dynamic Leader is not easy, but you can do it if you have the desire and discipline to succeed.

As the Top Leader, everyone will be looking for you to explain the restart plan and want to know about the future of the organization. The plan needs to be simple and honest because it will have impact on everyone in your organization. It will take the support and hard work of everyone for the company to restart and survive.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

Albert Einstein

4 – Lean Supply Chain Management is critical now

Before starting production, review the inbound and outbound supply chains. Don’t wait until after starting, because that is too late. Kanban systems and Just-In-Time (JIT) procedures may needed to be realigned to adjust material flow. If your raw materials are not locally available be sure to check the time needed for international shipments, as their delivery times may be different than pre-crisis. Increase the use of Visual Controls help in the transparency of material levels and flow so that everyone understands the changed demands. Consider establishing secondary or alternate supply chains with new vendors or multiple vendors to meet the new requirements.

5 – Turn 5S into 6S for increased safety

This start up is a great time to implement new and improved safety standards. When re-engineering a process or work area, improving safety should always be on your checklist. If using 5S was a struggle, or not practiced all the time, this is the time to get it going correctly. New Safety Standards can be added to an already existing 5S program to become 6S. 5S and Safety awareness needs to be raised to a new level if changes have been made on the work areas and people are in new roles.

If changes are needed in sanitation, PPE or distancing, all leaders at all levels need to comply to the same requirements put upon the workers. If wearing hard-hats, goggles, and gloves were hard to enforce before, this a good time to point out the importance of following safety procedures. This action of managers following the same safety procedures demonstrates leadership’s emphasis on safety and shows they care about employees’ well-being. Develop new checklist and modify them after restarting to be better.

6 – Think Win-Win-Win with Lean-Crisis-Leadership to Restart Processes.

If you read the previous five Keys again, you will see that I have mentioned how 9 different Lean Tools can help. They can not only be used to recover your previous processes, but they can be used to enhance you processes. Improve the efficiency, remove hidden wastes, improve the quality of training and performance, all by implementing Lean technology. This will help to keep your recovery costs down because many people within your organization have already received this training. Now hold them accountable for using what they learned.

Crisis Management planning calls for Preparation, Response, and Recovery plans. Simplify these plans and you will see how the fold almost seamlessly into Lean technology. Dynamic Leadership skills include the competencies needed to lead your organization out of a critical situation and into being a successful competitor again.

In recent history there has never been a better chance for a win-win-win situation than now. For the last 40 years we have been learning about and implementing Lean technologies. Some have had great success while others were trained but never implemented it fully. Many companies around the world will not survive this recovery and restarting period. Following a Lean-Crisis-Leadership methodology will at least give you a fighting chance.

For more information about Lean Crisis Leadership contact Michael Wader at

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