It is imperative for the top management of any business to have a thorough knowledge of true lean principles. A basic knowledge of lean tools, however, does not suffice.
In a nutshell, the lean principles focus on respect for people, continuous improvement at all levels, and a continuous focus on delivering customer value. This, however, necessitates a transformation in leadership as well.
Lean strategies can only be truly effective if they are accompanied by effective lean management. The latter helps champion the lean principles, provides valuable insights and guidance, and ensures that the principles of the methodology are being used to optimize the system as a whole.
Lean Management and Support
There are various tools and techniques that the leaders and executives of businesses can adapt to transform themselves into lean managers and help contribute the most value to the customer.
- The senior executives should learn to standardize their information flow and believe in the practice of eliminating waste.
- The top management should continuously observe the work done as a routine task.
- They need to reinforce appropriate behaviors and highlight them everywhere.
- If there is a need for change, communicate it to the entire business and ensure that the whole team understands.
- It is important for managers to actively engage themselves in the day-to-day affairs of the business. They need not just support the other employees, but be there out in the front to lend a helping hand whenever required.
- The top management should provide continuous support and stay committed to the values of the business.
- Lean managers need to shift their mindset. From a supervisor, they need to shift their role to a teacher and a coach. Lean leaders lead gently and by example.
- The management must ensure that the principles are used with the right goals in mind. It is essential to maximize the delivery of value to the customer in a sustainable fashion.
- Lean businesses focus on continuous improvement and experimentation. They know that the people dealing with the product are the ones with the best ideas for improvement and thus listen to every idea with an open mind.
- Do not spend unnecessary time in long feedback loops up and down the organizational structure. Ensure decisions are made in a timely manner.
- It is essential to understand the important variation management and good tolerance to achieve greater value and cost-effectiveness.
- Lean leadership can help bridge the gap between the tools and a continuously improving and self-sustaining organization.
- Lean management focuses on the scientific method. Leaders must strive to create an environment that targets continuous improvement.
- It is also important to acknowledge and celebrate improvements. If team members report their successes to a leadership that is not familiar with the tools and terms, they might not realize the importance of the success.
- Leaders should trust the experience, skills, and knowledge of their employees. Hire smart and ambitious team players and arm them with the right tools.
- Most importantly, leaders must learn when to let go and get out of the way. Leaders are not supposed to do the work but to lead teams and prioritize the right work so as to foster a great value for the customer.
The lack of understanding is one of the major hurdles that need to be overcome if you need to ensure that the upper management is involved in supporting initiatives for improvement. Learning the importance of the lean tools and methodologies and leading teams the right way without micro-managing the work is the key to success.
Team-building exercises are a great way to identify employees who are great team players as well as those who can possibly hinder teamwork. They are not just fun games, after all. Continuous support and commitment at the level of the top management are of utmost importance for a company to achieve their end goals.