Recently, I was working with a team on addressing the myriad challenges they were facing related to COVID-19. The same organization has over 15 years of experience with applying lean practices to various manufacturing situations. Many of this organization’s team members have solid skills in problem solving, visual management, standard work, and involving teams in various challenges.

Yet, as the challenges of COVID-19 have been thrust upon all of us, this same group understandably was reacting to the changing circumstances. The wonderful thing about lean is it lends itself to shifting out of a reactive mode and entering relatively quick cycles of learning. For ex-ample, my grocery store on Monday had one approach to manage safety. By Wednesday, they had adopted new practices and by Saturday, they were at even higher levels of cleanliness and safety.

Our workplaces are providing similar challenges. Some teams are working on-site while some are working virtually, and their approaches to work continue to evolve. So how do we apply lean to this situation?

Here are a few examples of how lean might apply:
• Use coaching styles of leadership to help teams identify ways to do things better.
• Develop new work standards that can be audited that ensure that new ways of working are being maintained, including new approaches to safety.
• Use visualized management to strengthen appropriate social distancing in the workplace.
• Encourage leaders to brainstorm with their work teams about how working virtually can make stronger connections and collaborations.
• Use problem solving techniques to have teams identify potential improvements by discussing issues they are facing.

While this is just a set of examples, one of the greatest values of the lean community is to share our thoughts, ideas, and experiences to elevate results for everyone.

Please share how your organization is using lean practices to address the challenges of working at home or working during this situation. In addition, feel free to reach out for suggestions on various challenges you’re facing to gain the input of others. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

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