Pragmatic Steps for Leading Lean
In recent conversations with manufacturing and service industry leaders, lean managers discussed problems they face as they work to advance operational excellence in their organizations.
The sticky issues will likely come as no surprise; they include ones most of us are already aware of and have encountered for years:
- Lack of real engagement with top leadership.
- Difficulty sustaining a process focus.
- No consistent systems for developing talent from within.
As one lean manager put it: “The main problems are internal in nature; for example, real engagement of the top levels of the organization to support and realize the value of operational excellence; and the adoption of process thinking and structured problem solving as opposed to traditional functional approaches and cost-cutting.”
Ironically, these same issues are key requirements for sustaining lean initiatives, but they were raised by managers in the context of a question about problems they encounter that fall outside the scope of their lean or operational excellence initiatives. Moreover, process focus and development of internal talent are elements that the initiative itself should be designed to address.
Here are several pragmatic approaches lean leaders can follow to counteract these problems, working within the purview and scope of their improvement efforts.