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To Lean or Not To Lean

By: Dave DeCoste

Businessman writing notes on the glass board

An SEI client recently asked for advice on how to best improve their global recruitment process.

As his trusted advisor, I suggested this opportunity was clearly “ripe” for a Lean process improvement project. All we would need to do is get the right people together in a room and – utilizing key Lean tools – perform a focused effort on improving the process. I also expressed my passion (as well as SEI’s) for Lean and my desire to drive the execution of the project. We met to better define and scope out the specific business opportunity and pain points the Talent Acquisition team was experiencing – what were the issues, where are the inefficiencies, who are the stakeholders, and how long does process take from start to finish?

The Project

We ran an abbreviated 10-day Lean Value Stream Mapping Session focused on the global recruitment process; specifically sourcing candidates, conducting interviews, providing offers, pre-boarding and pre-start activities. My role as Project Manager was to partner with the client’s Lean Management Office in the planning and execution of the project, in addition to establishing a governance model. Participants included key stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) across Human Resources, Information Systems and Operations.

The team leveraged a number of Lean tools throughout the project. A few examples:

Utilizing these Lean tools, the team identified 38 process improvement opportunities broken out into 4 key focus areas:

  • Roles, Responsibilities and Communication
  • Technology Gaps
  • Best Practice Processes
  • Metrics, Controls and Reporting

Implementation roadmaps – including timelines and milestones – were developed for each process improvement opportunity, which were then prioritized based on business impact and timing.

Immediate Results

This Lean Value Stream Mapping Session experienced real-time success and recognition within the organization due to the upfront, thoughtful planning, as well as the careful consideration of which process improvement approach to utilize. Additional critical success factors included identifying the right participants, ensuring the team was empowered to make change, establishing an effective governance model to ensure buy-in, and most importantly – in my opinion – having fun!

Lessons Learned

Considering a Lean process improvement project as a means to drive bottom-line results? Based on extensive experience and the project example above, I’d offer up the following advice…

  1. Listen to your customer (VOC). What do they want? What do they like/dislike? Using a customer-centric approach is critical as everything starts and ends with them.
  2. Ensure the right stakeholders and SMEs are on the team, those folks that live the process every day and can speak to the tasks, handoffs, timing, systems, roadblocks and pain points.
  3. Empower the team to make change.
  4. Invest the time. Instead of singular meetings spread over many weeks/months, consider condensing the time into a shorter-cycle event like a Lean project.
  5. Educate and train on Lean principles. Participants will learn simple tools and approaches they can take back to their day jobs at the conclusion of the Lean project.
  6. Make it fun!

Dave DeCoste


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