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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Communicate clearly improvement expectations, with specific objectives and work with each manager to develop a plan

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: lundi, octobre 11, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

You said four very positive things in this question.  1)  You are the manager of the pilot site and you are taking responsibility for lean, 2) you are using a pilot site to gain experience and deep learning, 3) you have a lean sensei to teach you, and 4) the lean sensei is pushing you to delegate downward to get better sustainment.  Just by virtue of those four key points you are ahead of many companies that assign lean to a lean six sigma department to deploy broadly across the company with minimal ownership by management.  A good sensei will push you to use your leadership skills to achieve the goal, in this case to sustain improvements that you have made.  It is a challenge.  The orthodox sensei within Toyota would rarely tell you how to do it but will challenge you.  Surprisingly people generally step up to the challenge and find an inner strength they had not experienced before, partly out of respect for the sensei.  So it is your job to lead your line managers.  Unfortunately you may be correct that your line managers were never selected or developed to have real leadership skills and to rise to the challenge.  Also unfortunately in lean saying they are not capable is not an acceptable answer.  An important part of the Toyota Way is approaching challenge with a positive outlook and never saying this or that cannot be done.  These managers may well have never been challenged to improve and probably have few positive experiences.  Here are some things you can try:  1)  Communicating clearly your expectations for improvement, 2)  Tying your expectations to specific measurable objectives, 3) working with each manager to develop a plan to achieve the objectives, 4) insist that they have a metric board and keep track of the key measures versus the target on a daily basis, 5) spend your time walking in the gemba and asking them questions about what they are working on and specific metrics that are below target and not moving, and 6) coaching them through direct feedback on performance.  You can also arrange some mini-kaizen events, possibly led by the line managers and the sensei, to attack specific problems and make sure the line managers are accountable.  These could be 2 or 3 day events.  This is a chance for the line managers to get some positive experiences in leading improvement.  One other piece of the puzzle that is not so pleasant is that you need to be strict about participation in improvement.  Ignoring the improvement work is not an option if they want to stay in that role.  You need a structure for them to participate, a way of objectively evaluating their activity like I mentioned above, and coaching to support them.  Give them every opportunity to participate and succeed.  Simply telling them you expect them to lead improvement is not enough.  But if they do not want to participate and consistently fail to take initiative you need to document it and take disciplinary action.  Whether or not you call this a lean way, it is the way of effective leadership

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