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Lean Forward: Ford's Legacy Shaping Modern Business Strategies

Superimposing Ford's innovative approach onto the modern canvas of transformation

By Keera GodfreyPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
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Photo of Dr. Keera Cleare-Godfrey, Founder and CEO of Naris Communications LLC.

Have you ever wondered how the lean manufacturing principles Henry Ford used in the early 1900s to revolutionize the automobile industry can be applied to business transformation today? Crowned as the architect of modern industry, Ford institutionalized operational excellence with concepts such as the assembly line, standardized workflows, and a structured work schedule. These changes were once disruptive to the American workforce, but history now recognizes and rewards Ford's innovative approach, which continues to be relevant today. So, what can his use of Lean in manufacturing teach us about driving change in the fast-paced business landscape today?

As a digital transformation strategist, certified Lean Six Sigma GreenBelt, and a former learning and development professional in OPEX (Operational Excellence), I see tremendous commonalities in Henry Ford’s use of lean manufacturing and the field of change management. Lean is a revolutionary methodology deeply rooted in five principles that have proven their resilience over time. Made popular in the 1980s, change management is a standardized approach for gaining and sustaining new ways of working. This article is a voyage into the synergies between Lean Manufacturing and the Naris 5E Change Readiness Framework for strategy activation. Come with me as we decipher the five pillars of Lean Manufacturing and explore the invaluable lessons they offer in guiding organizations toward lasting organizational change.

Defining the Vision for Change through the eyes of the customer:

A clear vision for change resides at the core of every transformative journey. Ford once said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." He understood the need for faster travel, but as an innovator, he had the courage and foresight to steer away from existing paradigms, embracing the changing tides of technology and market demand. In the context of Lean Manufacturing, the future-state vision is meticulously aligned with the value perceived by customers. Just as the first step in the Naris 5E Change Readiness Framework emphasizes envisioning the change through stakeholder touchpoints and value, Lean Manufacturing principles emphasize defining the product value stream through the eyes of the customer. Both methodologies are widely used to transition people, processes, and technology to achieve targeted business outcomes and sustain new ways of working. Both avenues converge on the premise that understanding and aligning with stakeholders' values are pivotal for success. As we explore this alignment, we gain insights into the essence of change management, where a shared vision catalyzes profound organizational shifts.

Optimizing Business Processes and Streamlining New Ways of Working:

In the second part of our exploration, we unlock another crucial aspect of Lean Manufacturing, which is understanding the value stream and enhancing operational workflows. When Ford stated, "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is a success," he insightfully laid the groundwork for collaborative efforts in the industry. Ford revolutionized manufacturing with his assembly lines, not merely by expediting production but by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies. Similarly, the Naris 5E Change Readiness Framework identifies what is changing and aligns the plan to streamline performance. Both lean and change methodologies underscore the notion that transformation isn't about merely adopting new technologies; rather, it's about restructuring operations and strategies to deliver exceptional stakeholder experiences. As it was in the early 1900s, successful organizational transformation is not solely dependent on technology; it lives in the daily operations of every team member and requires the harmonization of people, processes, and a persistent pursuit of excellence.

Sustaining Change and Consistency through Continuous Improvement:

In the final leg of our journey, we reach the key phase for long-term success--sustaining change through continuous improvement. Ford once remarked that "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking," which encapsulates the essence of commitment to excellence that is required for sustaining change in an organization. This insight from Ford is not simply about the end product, but rather the underlying culture of continuous improvement that must permeate every layer of an organization. It serves as a powerful reminder that lasting transformation is achieved not through intermittent efforts but through unwavering dedication to quality. In this digital age, where transformation is perpetual, this Lean principle becomes the bedrock upon which businesses can build enduring success. Similarly, the Naris 5E Change Readiness Framework emphasizes embedding the change into business systems to ensure long-term success. Leaders, the driving force in any organizational shift, must not only embrace change but foster a culture of business excellence. This is the cornerstone for achieving sustained success, a principle evident under Ford's leadership.

In conclusion, the principles of Lean Manufacturing offer a profound perspective on driving organizational change. The lessons drawn from the rich history of Ford Motors underscore the importance of aligning with stakeholder values, defining a clear vision of change, identifying customer needs, and sustaining operation flow through continuous improvement. By highlighting the principles of Lean alongside Naris' Change Readiness Framework, practitioners can accelerate buy-in and adoption within organizations. As we navigate the intricacies of Lean Manufacturing, it becomes evident that innovation, courageous leadership, and commitment to excellence are the bedrock for successful organizational transformation. In the ever-evolving landscape of business, embracing the synergies and learning from Lean Manufacturing becomes not just a strategy but a guiding philosophy for driving organizational change.

To learn more about Naris’ 5E Change Readiness Framework for organizational transformation, contact [email protected] and follow her on LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/keerasgodfrey.

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