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Lean Program Failures - Practical Leadership Tips

Just as children progress through development cycles as they mature, leaders also mature as their understanding grows.

In the history of lean implementations, we’ve seen a maturity progression from tools to systems, to thinking techniques. Our early understanding of lean was overwhelmed by the dynamic impact of the tools. We saw dramatic changes in our work environments as we implemented 5S: clutter, space, and time reductions seemed magical.

As we matured, the disconnected nature of our improvements became apparent. We then looked at systems techniques such as value stream mapping and lean promotion offices to coordinate our efforts.

In spite of our best efforts, our lean implementations didn’t sustain as we expected (Panebianco, 2011). At the current stage in our development, we understand that lean is more about creating a problem solving culture through people development. Gone are the days when a leader could throw the lean program over the fence for someone else to handle.

Just as raising your children takes direct involvement and leadership, so does your lean implementation. Your job as a parent is to develop your children’s knowledge, skills, and abilities so they can be successful in world long after your departure.

Shouldn’t you as a leader approach your lean program with the same goal of developing your team’s knowledge, skills, and abilities so they can be successful after your departure? Jim Collins (2001) called this Level 5 Leadership. You can’t expect Level 5 results if you don’t devote Level 5 efforts to developing your culture and team members.

What will you do this coming week to create a culture where problem solving is valued?

Panebianco, J. (2011, Quarter 1). Why lean programs fail. Managing Times, pp. 20-21.

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap.. and others don't. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

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