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Peter DeCaprio: 5 Tips for Improving Internal Communications in a Lean Workforce

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Lean businesses often recognize that their workforce plays a key role in the success of their lean transformation efforts, but efficiently communicating with these workers across complex multi-geography and multi-site organizations can be challenging.

In this new Lean Economy Times article, we examine 5 tips for improving internal communication in a lean workforce: Peter DeCaprio

  1. Start with recognition of who is responsible
  2. Make information readily available
  3. Clearly define roles and responsibilities
  4. Investigate technology options to facilitate communication
  5. Visual aids can make a difference

Here are details of each tip:

1. Start with recognition of who is responsible:

Lean leaders need to recognize who is responsible for internal communication. Keep in mind that everyone has a role to play, even if the role might be indirect. Leaders should ask themselves:

  • Whose job is it to communicate within my lean team?
  • Who tells the manager about how things are going at their location?
  • Who informs suppliers about what we want or don’t want?

2. Make information readily available:

A newsletter and an intranet site with an FAQ section can be very helpful in keeping employees current and informed on lean activities and issues. Eventually, the most effective way of communicating will probably require automation with some web-based solution that can automatically send out notifications via email or SMS (e.g., a cloud-based Learning Management System like Lean link LMS ).

3. Clearly define roles and responsibilities:

Decide who is responsible for what before you implement internal lean communication initiatives, and then train employees to follow their defined roles and responsibilities.

4. Investigate technology options to facilitate communication:

Implementing technology that facilitates rapid delivery of information (like Lean link LMS), can help keep your workforce up-to-date on lean activities faster than traditional communication channels. Other types of technologies that might be helpful are webcasting tools (e.g., WebEx) or feedback tools (e.g., Survey Monkey). Also, if the experts in your organization don’t know about these technologies, investigate options for training these employees.

5. Visual aids can make a difference:

Providing visual information through posters, email or intranet sites will help keep your workforce engaged with lean activities.


What is a “Lean Business”?

A lean business maximizes customer value while minimizing waste. Lean businesses often manufacture products and deliver services with fewer resources, in less time, and at a lower cost than their competitors. Employing lean thinking can help an organization become more market-driven, flexible and efficient.

Lean businesses often have more effective communication with their employees by involving them in the decision-making process to improve quality, productivity and customer service.

How can lean thinking help my company?

The goal of lean is to eliminate waste – anything that does not add value for your customers. Sometimes you need to re-evaluate every activity your company performs through a lens of “does this actually have value?” This rigorous process of continually looking for waste can dramatically improve your business results.

What is Lean Business Communication?

Communication within lean organizations is all about keeping people informed about activities relevant to their work (e.g., recent changes or upcoming events). The purpose of lean communication is not only to inform but also to engage front-line employees across multiple locations about lean activities and overall business results.

How often should I communicate on lean?

Lean communication can happen on a daily basis (e.g., email notifications) or less frequently (e.g., staff meetings, office newsletters). If communication doesn’t seem to be working well within your organization, then consider experimenting with different communication channels to determine the best fit for you.

What are some barriers that get in the way of efficient internal communication?

A haphazard approach to internal communication – not using the right channel at the right time; e.g., emailing announcements when employees want immediate feedback or asking general questions instead of specific questions to do performance reviews, etc.; Insufficient resources for internal communications; One department is unaware of what another department is doing; Lack of technology to facilitate communication (e.g., the web-based learning management system).

Does lean communication mean sending emails about lean topics?

Lean communication means making sure that employees across the company are very well informed and engaged about activities that impact their work. The best way to accomplish this will be different for each organization – there’s no one size fits all approach. Lean communication could include: sharing regular updates on business results, connecting people with experts in lean movements, getting everyone trained on a kaizen event or daily huddles etc.

Conclusion by Peter DeCaprio:

Lean communication is all about involving and engaging employees to take an active role in improving customer service and business results. There are many ways you can implement lean communication within your organization – the success of these activities will depend on how well you listen to your employees and apply what they tell you into practice. Lean thinking requires continuous reflection (e.g., PDCA) – it’s never too early or too late to start communicating with your workforce!


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