Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Lean Leader’s Role, A Shift in Mindset


Lean thinking is fundamentally transforming the way organizations operate. The Lean principles of continuous improvement, respect for people, and a relentless focus on delivering customer value are making teams and organizations rethink the practices that might have guided them for decades. A new, transformative approach to working requires a transformation in leadership, as well. For Lean to be truly effective, it needs effective Lean management — to champion Lean principles, offer guidance, and ensure that Lean is being used to optimize the entire organizational system for value delivery.

Practicing Lean management principles requires a shift in mindset: from that of a supervisor, to that of a teacher and coach. Lean leaders must lead gently, by example, ensuring that Lean principles are being applied with the right goal in mind: To sustainably maximize the delivery of value to the customer.

The lean leader is more of a teacher than a manager. If you are determined to make the methodology work in your organization, you need to encourage your team to continuously improve both their hard and soft skills.

In the same way that no two Lean transformations are exactly the same, no two applications of Lean management principles is exactly the same. Lean management is not a set of defined methods, tools, or practices. It would be more accurately defined as a management philosophy, a long-term approach that systematically seeks to improve processes and products through incremental changes.

Effectively practicing Lean management, then, requires leaders to play a fundamentally different role. The role of a Lean leader is that of a coach. Coaches align their teams around a common goal — a why that should guide every decision, big to small. They arm their teams with the tools for success, and encourage them to make smart decisions that will allow for sustainable, competitive growth. When it’s game time, they provide guidance and leadership as needed — but mostly, they rely on the skills, knowledge, and experience of their team to do what is necessary to achieve the team goal.

To make the lean leadership model work, you have to put heavy emphasis on culture. Among the most important elements of which must be trust and transparency. Whether you are in a formal leadership role, or not, be sure to lead by example and live by what you preach.

As a guiding figure, you need to recognize that the team, which is directly working on your product or service can provide some of the best ideas for improvement. Be sure to encourage each person to share any ideas they might have.


Lean leadership is necessary for making the most of the Lean methodology. It is more of a coaching role than of a managing one. The primary function of such a person is to raise new leaders and help their team embrace a culture of continuous improvement. A true lean leader is value-driven and puts the needs of the customer in the first place.

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