Lean on Your Employees: An Interview with Alyson Huntington-Jones of Masco Corporation

From efficiency to reducing waste, there is much in common with lean and going green.  There is even crossover between lean and the human dimension of sustainability.  I had the opportunity to discuss implementing lean from Alyson Huntington-Jones, Senior Continuous Improvement Consultant, at Masco Corporation.

Triple Pundit: Can you tell us a little about Masco?
Alyson Huntington-Jones: Masco is a huge building products conglomerate.  We own a bunch of different business units: Delta Faucets, Behr Paint, Milgard Windows etc.  We are also getting into green business, with a new startup called WellHome.  That is where we go and evaluate the Energy Efficiency of a home, have an assessment, and do some coordination as far recommending people to do that kind of work.

3p: It’s great that Masco is starting a new green business, but how are you getting your current businesses moving towards sustainability?
AHJ: I can talk from a lean perspective.  One of the things we have done is merge our lean and green things together.  We have an initiative called eco-evaluation, which is very similar to doing a lean type assessment.  A member of my group goes out to the plants and does an assessment on energy usage and carbon footprint.  Working with a team, they will come up with a list of opportunities.  When he walks away, they have a to do list of major impacts that can be implemented.

3p: Lean seems to be part of the Masco culture.
AHJ: Yes!

3p: How did lean develop in the company culture?
AHJ: Lean has gained much more traction in the entire organization in the last two years.
Lean from our perspective: How can you do more and more, with less and less, while providing exactly what the customer wants?

3p: It sounds very similar to going green and sustainability, and even the human dimension of sustainability?
AHJ: Yes, there are definitely some parallels there.

3p: Part of lean is about empowering the employee?
AHJ: Yes.  Involve the worker in the kaizen event.  You make the cultural transition to question how can you do things better. Capturing their creative ideas, improving processes, and removing the waste.  That is the lean culture we are trying to put through.

3p: In the panel Democracy in the Workplace, you discussed how you facilitated the transformation of a Masco business unit?
AHJ: Over 15 months we transformed a small business unit from a hierarchical command and control organization, to an accountability-based organization comprised of teams.  We took inspiration from WL Gore, Google, and Whole Foods.

People work in teams of 5-6 people, where the leader is chosen by the team.  Leadership is earned, not appointed.  Teams are responsible for their budgets.  Input on hiring and firing decisions.

Instead of putting the president at the top of the org chart, I flipped the chart upside down and put those who interface with the customer on top.  There are a ton of ideas out there, that people in the front line have, but they somehow die. Or people cannot just act on them.  This way, ideas bubble up.

3p: How did you find out about Net Impact?
AHJ: It was very serendipitous actually.  With the project I was doing on organizational democracy, I had read some research here of a professor doing research on employee empowerment.  I reached out to her, and asked her for other recommendation that I can read.   We started the initial contact.  A day or two later, she said “You won’t believe this one of my MBA students came in, and is having a panel on Democracy in the Workplace and would you like to come in and speak?”  That is how I got connected!

Ed Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since its initial publication.


Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

Leave a Reply