5 Improvement Opportunities for Lean Leadership

lean-leadership-4Before our recent webinar, "Lean Leadership: Building the Lean Culture," we conducted a bench-marking assessment to discover trends and areas of opportunity in lean leadership. Participants rated themselves on a scale of 1-3-5 on 40 statements based on their current, self-assessed condition.

Participants were then grouped into specific performance levels depending on their total points for the categories of:

  • Leading by Advocating Lean Thinking and Mitigating Resistance
  • Leading with Respect for People (No Blame)
  • Leading as Student and Teacher
  • Leading by Principles and Purpose
  • Leading with Lean vs. Traditional Leadership
  • Leading Using Inquiry vs. Advocacy
  • Leading by Building Teams
  • Leading with Effective Measurement Systems
  • Leading with Process and Value Stream Thinking
  • Leading with Visual Management and "Go See” Leadership
  • Leading the Vision – Focus, Alignment and Constancy of Purpose
  • Leading with Effective Time Management – Leader Standard Work
  • Leading by Reflection

The performance levels included:

  • NOT STABLE – I am not doing this at all.
  • FUNCTIONAL – I somewhat do this.
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE – I do this very well.

We shared the aggregate assessment results in the webinar and included some interesting findings around lean leadership.

Opportunity 1: “I use reflection to enable cross functional collaboration.”

For this assessment question, participants on average rated themselves 3.0. Problems often happen due to silo thinking. Reflection can overcome defensiveness that results from trying to break down silos. Tell your team member, “we clearly have some business challenges. This is a safe environment, so let’s reflect on some of the things going on in your departments and functions.” Schedule some time to meet them away from the day to day work.

Opportunity 2: “I cascade the vision to strategy to tactics – and communicate these to the organization through value stream maps and A3 documents.”

For this assessment question, participants on average rated themselves 2.8. In a given year, you have 52 weeks to reach annual improvement goals. Part of lean leadership is defining and making visible what is important on a tactical level each day. A helpful tool is the A3 document. On A3 documents, information is limited to one sheet of paper to document a problem, identify corrective actions and assign responsibility to them.

Opportunity 3: “I make my standard work visible to the team to drive accountability.”

On average, participants rated themselves 2.8. The team should see what is important and hold you accountable as a leader. It's crucial to not over-commit! Failing to complete standard work can make leaders lose credibility. Part of lean leadership is knowing the difference between what is urgent and what is not.

Opportunity 4: “I, along with my team, create operations that are self-explaining and problems are visible ('status of the operation').”

Participants also rated themselves an average 2.8 for this assessment question. Problems and urgency should be visual. Effective visual tools convey facts that prompt action. “Getting it” should be immediate. Give people the “score of the game.” Ask, “What are the objectives we want to attain today and how close are we to achieving them?”

Opportunity 5: “I build reflection into daily, weekly, monthly and annual PDCA processes.”

It seems reflection was a common theme in areas of opportunity, as participants again rated themselves an average 2.7. “What problems did we have? What caused the problems? How did we fix them?” Set aside 10 minutes at the beginning and end of the day to reflect with your team members. It keeps them aligned with lean principles and organizational goals and acts as a “mini-reminder.” It also shows respect for people and creates a safe learning environment for solving problems.

Are you practicing lean leadership? Take the assessment!

Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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