Friday, October 25, 2019

Lean Quote: Six Essential Management Functions to Accelerate Lean Transformation

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"The essence of management is not techniques and procedures. The essence of management is to make knowledge productive." — Peter Drucker

The Lean principles of continuous improvement, respect for people, and a relentless focus on delivering customer value are making organizations rethink the practices that might have guided them for decades. This new 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.

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.

Just as a Lean transformation cannot happen overnight, a Lean management transformation is not something that can be turned on with a switch. For many leaders, this requires abandoning many of the principles that have gotten them to where they are.

But the purpose of Lean management, and the goal of Lean as a whole, justifies the effort: Making this shift allows leaders to build sustainable, healthy companies built on a foundation of respect, learning, and continuous improvement. A Lean management approach allows leaders to leave a legacy they can be proud of: in careers spent learning, growing, and empowering people to do their best work, in companies that create products and service offerings that provide genuine value to their customers.

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