Building a Lean culture is not an easy task. A Lean culture starts with managers who understand and believe the implications of the systems view and know the necessity of serving customers in order to succeed. The result of that understanding is a culture where a positive internal environment and the creation of delighted customers go together. It is a culture that naturally emphasizes continuous improvement of processes, one that results in a healthy workplace, satisfied customers, and a growing, profitable company.
The best leaders understand the present is nothing more than a platform for the envisioning of, and positioning for, the future. If you want to lead more effectively, shorten the distance between the future and present. Inspiring innovation and leading change call for more than process– they require the adoption of a cultural mindset.
Implementing Lean Thinking is a cultural change that requires leadership…because in the end it’s all about people. Here are 10 guidelines your leader can do right now to change the culture:
- Challenge People to Think
If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.
- Lead by Example
Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.
- Take Lots of Leaps of Faith
Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction. Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.
- Create an Environment Where it is Ok to Fail
Failure should be encouraged! That’s right. If you don’t try, you can’t grow; and if growth is what you seek, failing is inevitable. There must be encouragement to try and it’s ok if you try and it doesn’t work. An environment where you can’t fail creates fear.
- Eliminate Concrete Heads
“Concrete Heads” is the Japanese term for someone who does not accept that the organization must be focused on the elimination of waste. People feel threatened by the changes brought about by lean. As waste and bureaucracy are eliminated, some will find that little of what they have been doing is adding value. The anxiety they feel is normal and expected. To counteract this, it is critical that people are shown how the concept of work needs to change.
- Be a Great Teacher
Successful leaders take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance. They never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves.
- Show Respect to Everyone
Everyone desires respect. Everyone. Regardless of your position or power, ensure you show everyone respect. Everyone wants to be treated fairly.
- Motivate Your Followers
Transformational leaders provide inspirational motivation to encourage their followers to get into action. Of course, being inspirational isn't always easy. Some ideas for leadership inspiration include being genuinely passionate about ideas or goals, helping followers feel included in the process and offering recognition, praise and rewards for people's accomplishments.
- Develop a True Team Environment
Create an environment where working as a team is valued and encouraged; where individuals work together to solve problems and help move the organization forward. Individuals who will challenge each other and support each other make teams more successful.
- Encourage People to Make Contributions
Let the members of your team know that you welcome their ideas. Leaders who encourage involvement from group members has shown to lead to greater commitment, more creative problem-solving and improved productivity.
Constant change is a business reality and organizations must continually adapt to their environments to stay competitive or risk losing relevance and becoming obsolete. For each change, leaders must define it, create a vision of the post-change world, and mobilize their teams to make it.
Fundamentally, a change of culture occurs when people start behaving differently as a result of a change in the climate of the organization. There are many different models of how an organizational culture is shaped by the prevailing climate and how it can be assessed.
Leaders who protect the status quo through control must surrender to change in order to secure the future for their organization. Don’t be the leader who rewards herd mentality, and me too thinking. Don’t be the leader who encourages people not to fail or not to take risks. Be the leader who both models and gives permission to do the exact opposite of the aforementioned – be a leader who leads.
The culture of an organization is learnt over time. It can be taught to new employees through formal training programs but is more generally absorbed through stories, myths, rituals, and shared behaviors within teams. Organizational culture will impact positively or negatively on everything you try to do whether you want it to or not.