Lean Frontiers: Are they differences in getting middle management on board from getting executive management support?
Are there differences in getting middle management from executive management on board for 1) developing the lean enterprise and 2) direct engagement on their part? What are the differences, if any?
Posted on May 9, 2015
Archives by Tag 'leadership'
Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: How a Toyota leader defines Lean Leadership!

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, April 2, 2015
I heard one of the better definitions of a lean leader from one of the Presidents of the Toyota Technical Center, Mr. Yamashina, and I published it in The Toyota Way: Always keep the final target in mind Clearly assign tasks to yourself and others Think and speak based on verified, proven information and data Take full advantage of the wisdom and experience of others to send, gather or discuss information Always report, inform and consult in a timely manner Analyze and ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Technical proficiency and leadership acumen – can you nail the problem statement first time right?

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
This is a great question and one that nags at me a lot. However, instead of answering the question directly, I’d like to share some fodder for considering whether a KPO is an effective structure for supporting Lean transformation. I’ll begin by sharing some real-world experience… At the Lean Coaching Summit in July, I had the opportunity to watch over 100 people attempt problem solving (one workshop and two extended concurrent sessions). Most of the participants said they were “leading” Lean at their companies. Only 2 of the 100+ nailed the problem statement out of the gate. At least 1/3 ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Kaizen events are mainly a tool to open the minds of the leadership

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, June 2, 2014
I have personally been involved, along with my associates, in leading kaizen events for over 15 years. We never used a very rigid format. They could range from 2 days to 5 days. I had associates who were formally taught by shingijutsu and preferred 5-day events and were exceptional at leading them. They were quite exciting and were especially so in the early days. There was action. People were engaged. There were results. Management was excited. We still lead events and I never feel they are a bad thing. But I have ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: This is honestly more about leadership than lean

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Be forewarned - this response may come off as a somewhat brutal but I was frankly appalled by parts of the above question. Maybe I am just getting old and cranky? If so you have my apologies in advance. In order to explain my extremely visceral reaction to the submitted question I will address the statements made one by one for clarity. For starters you state that “As CEO of my company I have a grasp of Lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I am CEO, I find it hard to ask my people to make ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Start with a demonstration activity and engage the leadership team

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Saturday, February 8, 2014
While I agree whole heartedly with all of the responses so far, I'm going to offer an alternative viewpoint from pragmatic perspective. Many of the organizations I've worked with that have made significant progress on the Lean journey, didn't begin with the ideal: "what problem do you want/need to solve?" In several cases, they had no idea what Lean was; they simply knew that they wanted to improve their performance. So I've often started with a "demonstration activity" to get their feet wet, expose them to Lean thinking, and show them the world they could head into. In most of ...

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Steven Spear

Steven Spear: Start with a ‘model line’ so that leadership can learn to see and solve problems

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Becoming an exceptional organization, one capable of short term reliability and longer term responsiveness and agility requires building skills that accelerate feedback, correction, and learning. The reliable mechanism is starting with a ‘model line’ incubator in which leadership is connected to creating and harnessing a problem seeing problems solving dynamic and then using that incubator as a developmental tool to propagate those skills broadly. PERFORMANCE LEVELS AS FUNCTION OF LEARNING RATE We get entranced by the difference in "performance altitude" between those who are exceptional and those who are typical. In doing so, we overlook the fact that superior altitude was ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: The rate of improvement dependends on the culture and maturity of the organization, leadership alignment around priorities, and workforce involvement rather than training being any type of constraint.

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Monday, March 25, 2013
Like Jeff, my question is whether you mean “work standards” or “standardized (standard) work.” I view them as two different animals. A standard might be, for example, that you always insert a needle with the bevel up. Or that you always apply X amount of torque to a bolt. Or that a legal document always includes a confidentiality clause. Standardized work, on the other hand, is the process by which work gets done. The sequence of activities. Standardized work may or may not include defined standards. “The best known way” could apply ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Lean engineering tools can be lifeless or brought to life with exceptional leadership and teamwork

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 16, 2013
With my associates at Liker Lean Advisors we have been working with product development organizations for the last ten years ranging from $1 billion businesses to Fortune 50 businesses.   As in all of my published work we believe in an organic approach, rather then an mechanistic tool-based approach.   There are many tools that Jim Morgan and I talk about in The Toyota Product Development System, such as a chief engineer's concept paper, value stream mapping, know-how databases, the big room (obeya) for project meetings, and the use of A3 reports.   These are all tools which can be ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Line versus Staff Leadership

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013
The question of how to staff a KPO (Kaizen Promotion Office) and with what type of leader is an interesting one and it deserves some thought. I don’t think the question is a trivial one or a “one size fits all” answer. The response depends upon the nature of the company, the situation it faces, resource development priorities, and the overall leadership style of the executive leading the organization. For starters let’s question whether you even need a Kaizen Promotion Office to begin with.  That may sound like an odd question but keep in mind that Toyota did not have any ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: The key differentiator is what leadership thinks it need accomplish: redesign of processes others use to conduct their business or acquisition of capability that they can cultivate, propagate, and engage energetically

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
What role a kaizen promotion office plays depends on what problem you are trying to solve.  Is it to make a single change in process design and performance or it is to change the ramp-slope at which an organization discovers its way to greatness? For the former, organizations might want to stabilize otherwise chaotic processes--both those that are physically transformative and also those that are administrative.  Doing so has the obvious benefits of moving from the low performance plateau of disarray to the higher performing plateau of increased  efficiency and effectiveness. In that ...

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Preparing for the inevitable change in leadership

By , - Last updated: Sunday, November 6, 2011
Until someone finds the Fountain of Youth, leadership changes in organizations are inevitable. Large corporations and small family-owned businesses all have to deal with it. But sometimes they appear to occur at the wrong time. Just as your lean journey appears to have some momentum, all of a sudden the leadership changes. The leadership change might be at a plant level, an executive level, or the CEO themselves. In any of these cases, leadership changes can cause shifts to our momentum. But we're caught by surprised. And anytime that we're caught unprepared for something that is inevitable, we have only ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: It starts with leadership

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Sunday, June 27, 2010
How do you build a culture such that problems are seen as opportunities for improvement? It all starts at the top and cascades down from there in my opinion. Employees are somewhat like young children in a family. They tend to model and reinforce behavioral norms that they see around them especially traits from senior leaders. In Toyota's case there are lots of roots to examine that influenced the company's culture and development with respect to this dimension. For starters there are the five Toyoda Precepts attributed to founder Sakichi Toyoda and codified by his sons Kiichiro and Risaburo in 1935. ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: The leadership to learn to recognize the problems you create and lead the organization to solve them

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Thursday, February 25, 2010
There are reasons leadership gets stuck in a dysfunctional cycle. To get out of a bad-outcome pattern, you first have to admit to yourself that you will need to learn to dig yourself out of the hole. Sadly, I’ve met many leaders of companies in similar situations, and they are convinced that it’s a matter of making the right decisions and then executing ruthlessly. Unfortunately, they are blind to the fact that it is their very decision-making process (and not the big bad world out there) that delivers unsatisfying results. The decision-making framework assumes that 1) we already know all ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: a “problems first” attitude is the key to sustaining learning leadership

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The first answer is leadership, the second leadership and the third… leadership. But a very special and specific kind of leadership. Of all the quirks of the lean thinking the one that has always fascinated me is “problems first.” In practice this means we are not so interested in successes (the right results from the right process) because there is nothing to learn there – we are only interested in problems, failures, and things that don’t work as expected, because there is much to learn. “Problems first” also means that any employee can come up to a manager and discuss ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Lean leadership is knowledge leadership – lean is for people with the ability to learn

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Friday, January 15, 2010
Lean is not always that hard. Sure it's work: difficult to think that any method  to perform better would not be. But more importantly, not all people take to it equally. A few find lean to be just work: challenging, but quite natural. Many will never get it. Peter Senge hits the nail right on the head as to the difficulties encountered with adopting the lean approach: 1) the learning component of lean is often underestimated, no matter how much the sensei insist upon it; 2) lean learning is based on acknowledging one’s mistakes and taking responsibility for the fact ...

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