Lean Leadership: How Can We Drive Lean Problem Solving Efforts?

David Sherman - Manager, Lean Supply Chain Operations

Being a lean leader involves coaching a team through lean problem solving efforts. In many firms, it is easy to spot problems within processes. It is sometimes difficult however, for problems to be eliminated through problem solving efforts. Issues such as: collaboration isn’t present; the approach that “this is always how it is done” is always present; as well as leadership isn’t present to coach and mentor team members through the problem solving process. Without proper leadership and guidance it may be difficult for team members to lean problem solve issues at the root cause.

The Lean Leader

The lean leader’s primary focus is to coach and mentor team members through the lean problem solving process. This mean giving them the tools necessary to problem solve on their own. Since the team members performing the work are more familiar with these problems, it is more optimal to empower those team members (with tools and knowledge) to solve the issues. Customer’s often state: we know there are problems, how do we prioritize them and solve them? This crucial question helps in determining where the lean leader can start with the team members. Lean leaders then have a clear direction in regards to mentoring and coaching team members toward success. Lean leaders can facilitate in the formation of meetings to create directional A3s, LRCs etc. As team members work through the problem solving process, the lean leader is available to provide feedback and guidance to help the team member continue on their path to success.

Lean Problem Solving Effortsleadership team

As problems are discovered and address, it is key for team members to prioritize each item to the criticality of business operations. Prioritization of these items then leads to the problem solving being documented with A3 (directional etc.) so the scope of the problem can be determined in one piece of paper. Along with the scope of the problem, the current state and future state processes are mapped to help determine the gaps that are occurring today. These gaps are then closed with action items within the A3 and an LRC is created. The LRC is created to bring visibility to action items within the problem solving process as well as to give a timeline of events for the problem solving project at hand. These documents are maintained and facilitated by the team members but can be guided with the help of the lean leader(s) within the organization. As team members begin to utilize these documents and become comfortable with these and other lean problem solving documents, they will have more confidence to approach and solve other problems they discover in their day to day work.

How does it all tie in?

Lean leaders within their organizations must ensure they continuously coach and mentor team members to solve their own problems by utilizing lean problem solving tools and techniques. Lean leaders need to understand the gaps within their team member’s problem solving abilities so that coaching efforts can guide them to the next level. The lean leader’s main goal is to coach their team members to utilize the problem solving processes and tools to better their value adding activities. These goals should all align with departmental and corporate improvement plans. That is why collaboration and team member involvement is so key.

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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