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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

7 Steps Successful Lean Leaders Take Support Improvement

Leadership commitment and support is critical for successful process improvement initiatives. Fortunately, it is not particularly complicated to make a difference. Here are seven steps that leaders can take to support Lean process improvement efforts.

1. Set Goals

Create a vision of the future state and determine where to focus your efforts. Lean is often surmised as doing the right things at the right time and cost. Set concrete goals with a time frame for when you want to achieve those goals.

2. Get Started

Successful leaders start immediately. They don’t drag their feet or put it off. They act on a goal right away, because they understand the power of momentum. They may not do the whole thing at once, but they do take a big step to get started. There is never a better time than now to get started.

3. Think Positive

This is the half-empty, half-full syndrome. Lean leader are optimists and believe the cup is always half full. They aren’t pie-in-the-sky types, but they see the positive side of an opportunity, and they believe in their ability to achieve their goals.

4. Take Action

Those who are successful take action, even on partial information. Too many people wait around until they think they have all the answers. But if you do that, you may wait forever. Lean leaders don’t proceed blindly, but they know that, once they have the critical details, they can make a decision and act accordingly.

5. Be Determined

Implementing Lean is no easy endeavor. There are so many variables that it is impossible to determine how things will proceed. You don’t know what will happen once you take the first step, so the only constants are the end vision and your determination to get there, even if the path doesn't unfold exactly as you envisioned.

6. Lead by Example

You must hold yourself accountable before you can hold anyone else. A leader implies followers are doing just that, following. If you want to be a leader, you must go to the source and see the actual condition from those that make it happen. It is from the Gemba that you have the best opportunity to coach improvement.

7. Learn From Your Mistakes

To be a good leader you have to take calculated risks and you will certainly make some mistakes along the way. Admit them. Learn from them. Don't repeat them! Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process.

These are just some of the steps needed to be a successful leader in a Lean environment. Being a good leader may sound simple, but it is not easy. It requires tremendous strength of character. Almost all successful leaders will tell you that being extremely focused on the outcomes they wanted to create, trying many different approaches to achieving them, and staying the course all add up to success.

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