Management Leadership Training. One could make a case that this is one of the most important preparation items of all. Lean is not a “grass-roots” effort that will eventually trickle its way to the top. Without strong leadership and consensus from the top management team, your probability of creating a Lean Enterprise is, let’s face it, zero. A Lean initiative never fails when the CEO is strongly involved, and it never succeeds when the CEO is not.
Even if your leadership team verbally expresses strong support for this direction, it is still not clear if they know exactly what they’re talking about or signing up for. There are a host of misunderstandings that exist, and it is critical that everyone in the group be on the same page. The best way to achieve this is to conduct a private Lean workshop designed for the purpose of creating a consistent vision of the Lean Enterprise, and a consistent focus for the leadership team. The workshop should be held off-site to avoid distractions, and at least three days are needed. There should be a practical outcome to the workshop in the form of a high level Lean Master Plan, covering at least the next year.
W. Edwards Deming published his famous 14 Points in 1982, in order to provide guidance for American management faced with the challenge of overseas competition. His feeling was that American management had lost its way, and needed a new beginning in order to survive. Deming also stressed the importance of on-going education. The new philosophy that he refers to, is now call Lean and Six Sigma, as follows.
1. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision is to help people and machines to do a better job. Supervision of management needs an overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
3. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service,
with the aim to become competitive, stay in business, and to provide jobs.
4. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
How can you be sure that your management team is engaged and on-board with the Lean initiative? It’s difficult to cut through lip-service, but one way is to insist that your leadership team be able to teach basic Lean concepts like 5S, Continuous Improvement and Value Stream Mapping. As you have all experienced, if you’re required to teach something to others, it is imperative to understand it yourself. If Lean concepts are properly and correctly understood, it is easy to be enthusiastic about them and become fully committed to their introduction and implementation. We are not suggesting that your top management become full- time trainers, but that they are able to teach, and are occasionally asked to do so.