When is “Future State”?

Once you have been around the Lean community for a while, you know it all boils down to:

1. Where are we now? What is the Current State?

2. Where to we want to be? What is the Future State?

3. How do we get from one to the other? How do we “close the gap”?

There are many tools to help you work out these steps and which you use depends on the type of problem you are trying to solve [see There are A3 Plans and then there are A3 Plans for more about A3s]. The challenge is to define where the “Future state” actually sits – WHEN do we want that to happen?

At TXM we find the Future State timeframe needs to be about 4 to 6 months. This doesn’t include factory relocations or other HUGE step changes; here we are talking about implementing a solid base with the Lean Enterprise tools, along with good housekeeping, improved quality and safety, and basic visual management.

If we expect to make significant changes in a shorter period of time we are doing ourselves a disservice by not allowing sufficient time for communicating, training and trailing the new concepts. Even with people who are very familiar with your current processes, it still takes time to make these changes in parallel with normal production. Time is also needed to problem solve issues properly as they arise. This also presumes you have good support people to help the production team and supervisors with the transition; if you are expecting your current people to make the changes and conduct the trials need to prove the new concepts, along with their everyday worries, these changes will take longer to achieve.

The challenge with planning a Future State with a scope longer that 6 months is that things will change and these things can’t be foreseen from where you are standing right now. There will be new technology, new customer orders and a different product mix in most industries

Beware also if you are planning a “White Knight” solution in this 6 to 12 months horizon.  A “White Knight” may include a piece of new technology, new software or MRP system or a new General Manager. All of these will stifle any creativity or improvements between now and then because we are all waiting around until this new thing has happened, hoping (against hope) that it will solve all of our problems (we know people aren’t rational when it comes to “hope”). And then when the White Knight is installed or implemented, people will be disappointed – it won’t be everything to everyone. Then, best case scenario, we will pick up where we left off with our Future state implementation and get on with it, having lost 12 months. Worse-case scenarios – all will be set aside and all hope is lost because it is all “too hard” and “we don’t have time”.

The best time to have started implementing Lean was 5 years ago; the second best time? RIGHT NOW!

Robert Chittenden

Author: Robert Chittenden

Robert Chittenden is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions