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Monday, March 21, 2016

Mentoring is Vital to Developing Lean Thinking

One key area frequently overlooked in process improvement deployments is the importance of developing experts who understand both the art and science of mentoring to grow real internal capabilities.

Mentoring can be defined as a significant, long-term, beneficial effect on a person’s life or style, generally as a result of personal, one-on-one contact. A mentor is one who offers knowledge, insight, perspective, or wisdom that is especially useful to the other person.

People who have been mentored often recognize that something very special has happened, but they may not even know what to call the experience. Mentoring can be done by anyone, at any time, in almost any place. Mentoring can take the form of a one-sot intervention or a lifelong relationship. It can be carried out informally as an element of friendship, or formally as part of a highly structured employee orientation program.

Mentoring is a process whereby mentor and mentee work together to discover and develop the mentee’s latent abilities and to encourage the mentee to acquire effective tutor, counselor, friend, and foil who enables the mentee to sharpen skills and hone her or is thinking. There should be a genuine interest in both parties in what you are trying to achieve, what you are learning, and what will be next.

Mentoring also can happen almost unconsciously. Someone may do or say something that will have an important effect on someone else. Or the recipient may become only slowly aware of how important a given intervention has been in his or her life. Yet these empowering links are not just beneficial accidents. Their power springs from the giving nature of the mentor and the receptiveness of the mentee to absorb, digest, and use the lessons passed to her or him. Probably we have all had such experiences, both as mentor and as mentee.

Effective mentoring requires going above and beyond. It is a relationship in which a person with greater experience, expertise, and wisdom counsels teaches, guides, and helps another person to develop both personally and professionally to meet exceptional standards of performance.

It is the role of executives and managers to create an environment and the systems in which employees can and will take responsibility for the practices, behaviors and thinking that achieve, sustain and build on improvements made with Lean. Mentoring is an important component to building this learning environment to support process improvements.

The mentor is checking that the mentee is learning the right skills and thinking to develop the organization. As each level in the organization begins to understand their role in coaching/mentoring the next level - and gain both the skill and perspective to do it, the organization achieves a cascading coaching/mentoring environment where continuous Lean improvement can flourish.

Mentoring is vital to develop and teach the thinking that is key to promoting and propagating the principles that underlie the Lean methodology. Without an embedded mentoring structure, the organization cannot deploy the deep understanding necessary for proliferating, or even sustaining, continued learning. Also, without a long-term commitment to mentoring employees, the learning developed in each employee would only reach a superficial level.

Don’t overlook the critical role mentoring plays in a Lean thinking organization.

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