Lean Leadership: Chasing the Same Vision

By: Michael Burchett

Imagine that your boss gives you a project with a one-week deadline. In order to reach this deadline, you and your team work through the weekend, skip other non-essential work, pushing yourselves to the very brink of your mental and physical capacity. By the deadline, you submit your completed project and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the work is done. But deep down, you know that if you had more time the project could have been better.

The following day, your boss tells you the customer didn’t like the result and expected a more thorough output. But did you really have a thorough understanding of the customer’s expectations in the first place? A variation of the below picture is likely what happened.

tree Click to see image

Although comical, it often rings true. Without proper planning, communication, and accountability in project management, nobody wins. You end up with re-work and your customer ends up unsatisfied.

Lean leadership principles teach that it’s about making sure everyone is on the same page. There are several tools that can help a lean leaders align their team and ensure everyone is working towards the same vision.

A3 Scoping Document

A3 scoping document, or A3S, is a project charter that operates under the principle of A3 thinking (also known as one-page thinking). The idea is uses a single sheet of paper to communicate everything necessary for the project. Typically an A3S uses an A3 size sheet of paper (hence the name). This document is used to gather initial alignment by determining the scope of the project and overall customer expectations. Each and every stakeholder can read the A3 Scoping document and understand the project at a high level. In lean leadership, scoping the project is a necessary first step towards success and as such anyone practicing lean leadership should not begin a project until it is scoped. If you take an hour to create an A3 Scoping document you will save potentially days of re-work that can result from misaligned expectations.


The A3 is a great start, but there is more project management necessary. How do you make the project vision a reality? Who or what needs to be involved? What specific steps are needed and when should they happen? Answering these questions require a project management tool such as a Gantt chart. In a basic sense, a Gantt chart is a cross-functional schedule used by project managers. It lists all parties that need to be involved and all tasks that need to happen. It lists all tasks in a visual schedule for all stakeholders. If properly maintained, it can communicate instant project status, next steps, and potential bottlenecks.


Creating a project overview and a project schedule is the “PD” part of PDCA. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, Adjust. Creating a plan and starting to implement it are the first steps in PDCA. Once you have a project overview and schedule developed, you need to make sure that this is maintained. This is where the “CA” becomes useful. PDCA is a constant re-aligning of expectations with reality. It asks the questions: Where are we? Where do we expect to be? If we are behind, is it ok? If not, how do we make it up? It is a time for practitioners of lean leadership to check progress and adjust accordingly.

Lean leadership involves asking the simple question, “What problem are we trying to solve?” The tools listed here will not only help answer that question, but drive the effective project management necessary to deliver upon (maybe even exceed) customer expectations.


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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