One of the most important aspects of a successful lean journey is leadership. Lean brings powerful changes to each and every organization the strategy is implemented into. Any Lean practitioner who has seen a few projects or benchmarked various organizations has most likely witnessed a unique culture that somehow just happens naturally in lean companies. For this reason leadership often times takes on a more servant style of leading, afterall they exist to help the people they serve succeed.
Here are a few important concepts that will help leaders keep moving forward.
1. Pareto Leaders- As a leader you may start off in an improvement project, in fact you probably should. Experiencing kaizen and improvement events first hand will help you understand what happens in the events and experience first hand the spirit of kaizen. In many organizations as much as 80% of Kaizen is driven by those who are closest to the work. Finding out where those 80% of improvements are coming from can give you insight regarding the areas your mentorship is needed in. As a leader application of the pareto principle can also help you identify:
2. Genchi Genbutsu- Many years ago "the Gallow" would drop and everyone in the company knew that leadership had made a directive. We have all seen it and felt it, but in today's day and age the "dictator" approach doesn't yield such great results. Today Leaders are responsible for developing, training, discovering and mentoring future leaders. This most often times involves "Leader Standard work" and frequent Gemba walks where you can "Go and See" (Genchi Genbutsu).
- Often times employees are considered resources amongst machines and equipment. This sort of mindset will certainly place your lean journey at a stand still if your employees are just "resources." As a leaders one of the most important things you can do for your organization is empower others. Those people should feel empowered and prepared for success and if they stumble they should know exactly who to look to for mentoring and guidance.
- Training, Training, Training. Did we mention training? One of the most important aspects of developing the organization is developing the people who work their. Like any "Sports Team" every individual must be prepared to carry and support their weight. For this reason helping individuals develop their skills will certainly press your strategies forward. Establishing a standard onboarding process which includes basic training like learning foundational concepts of a lean strategy can help ensure all employees start of on similar ground. Even if employees are at advanced levels, we can all agree, review still helps.
- Building a solid foundation for any strategy is quite the task and as a leader it should be a top priority. One common mistake is passing the orders down from the top and interpreting value as the amount of direct labor your projects absorb. This is known as the underutilization of skills or more commonly the eighth form of waste. You need to build a solid support system amongst team members. Part of this process is creating a culture where people are confident that they are part of decisions being made. It will not happen overnight. Some things you can do to support your teams and people are:
3. Lead by example - Above all else lead by example. For many employees leadership is someone they look up to. Whether you carry the title of owner, C-level director or front line we all have different levels of "leadership" we are responsible. Setting a good example for those that follow is a sure fire way to influence others in a positive way.
There will be many different things that you can do for your organizations as the year progresses, but if there is one key element to driving effective change, it's the way we Lead, Support and develop one another. Effective Change agents whether in manufacturing or service commonly spring from a culture and leadership that supports the people not just the projects.
**What concepts, ideals, examples or behaviors do you appreciate most in a leader?