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Leadership can exist without lean, but lean cannot exist without leadership

by Chris Cooley

Often lean implementation focus’s on the planning and the tasks. What is invariably missed out is the leadership elements; how to engage the people, how to embed and sustain the improvements and how to create a cycle of continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement cycle

Continuous improvement and leadership

For more information regarding the continuous improvement cycle please follow this link to Lean in Manufacturing (applies to any lean implementation)

As you can see leadership is critical to connect each stage, but is also integral to the content of each stage.

Critical Leadership Stages

The beginning

Q. How do you engage your people so that they aren’t fearful of the change or even fearful for their jobs ?

A. Cascade your goals, explain how the goals are necessary for the future of the company, align the objectives of your lean project to your business goals and then prioritise what to improve first by relevance to the lean objectives. Finally, measure, measure, measure !

This shows full management commitment, especially if you take time before the start of the lean projects to get the workforce together and take them through the reasoning.

cascade the reasons for the lean improvements

Coach and mentor the teams

Q. How do you ensure that the lean project team(s) (or any project team) work together and have common goals ?

A. Think about the make-up of the teams:

  • Ensure the implementation team is balanced
  • Always include staff from the process
  • Always include checkers and implementers in the team
  • Include staff outside the main process – “fresh eyes”
  • Allocate sub-teams to different parts of the process

A. Look out for the stages of team building

elements of team forming

Empowering Management Control

Q. How do you ensure that the plans are deployed, the actions completed and the expected results are achieved ?

A. Follow and systemise PDCA (Plan – Do – Check – Act) – most improvement projects fail to reach their true potential because of a failure to deploy. Deployment isn’t completed because of a failure to check. The findings of the check aren’t followed through because of a failure to take corrective actions.

By having in place a management control system that has check and act inbuilt, but is not seen as repressive or constrictive, the full PDCA cycle can be followed.

effective management control

And Finally…

Anytime you are asked to review the team’s work – do so with grace, give constructive criticism and always congratulate, at the least for the effort if not the result yet.

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