Monday, November 9, 2015

Management’s Expanded Role in Lean Thinking


Most often when people hear the term management it connotes a specific hierarchical structure of an organization. According to Wikipedia, management in all business and organizational activities is the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively.

I prefer to use the metaphor of a bus to describe management’s role in an organization. The change leader of your organization sets the direction of the bus (hopefully toward “True North”) and has to get the right people with the right stuff in the right seats on the bus. Great leaders put the right people in the right seats on the bus, and then drive the bus to the right locations. In other words, great leaders “help people apply their talents effectively and realize self-accountability and self-motivation.”

Management is primarily about leading and developing people. It is management’s role to create the systems to do this. The system involves:

  1. Identify tools
  2. Teach tools
  3. Keep everyone practicing
Be mindful that while systems run businesses, it’s the people who run the system. Therefore, management must provide the necessary information and inspiration:
  • Identify best practices
  • Create a learning environment
  • Keep everyone trained and practiced
When it comes to management’s role in a Lean environment their function must be reconsidered. My friends at GBMP have identified six essential functions of the management process to support and accelerate a Lean conversion:
  1. Volition – Unwavering management commitment to and articulation of the need for everybody everyday.
  2. Policy – Codification of what we do, how we do it, and how it is measured. 
  3. Planning and deployment – Developing, managing, and communicating a plan to redirect the organization in a “True North” direction, balancing improvement time and daily management time.
  4. Control and monitoring – Creation of measurements that accurately align daily management practices and performance with organizational strategy.
  5. Satisfaction – Fostering the organization and people development through reflection on wins and lessons learned. Feeds back to volition.
  6. Idea Systems – Developing a robust system to stimulate, capture, implement, recognize, and share improvement ideas.
Together, these create the infrastructure and shared understanding that run the business, both daily and long-term.

Management’s role in transforming the management system is analogous to every employee’s role in Lean: many small improvements that come from the common sense and experience of the people who do the work.

Are you an agent of change or just a keeper of status quo?



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