Strong leadership is fundamental to a successful lean enterprise.   Lean is viewed by many as a transformation and any thesis on change management will point to leadership as fundamental.   Lean is not a temporary, transitional state, but a fabric of principles that once adopted, lead to a mindset and culture of unending continuous improvement – in an sense unending change.   If  leadership is fundamental to managing change, then it is even more important a lean enterprise.

Any strong and viable business must adhere to lean principles, whether they know it or not.  Lean is a merging of quality, operations managment, financial management and even marketing discipline that when properly applied will not just improve results but have the potential to lead to market dominance.  Lean principles are the path to delivery of  higher value goods and services, more quickly, cheaply and more profitably.    Lean is what good leaders adopt and adhere to and poor ones either don’t  recognize or have trouble implementing.

People are what make a lean enterprise go or not, by following where they are led.   One of the cynical acronyms of lean is ‘Less Employees Are Needed’.    It is the first open manhole cover that must be navigated around to avoid progress derailment.   People trust good leaders to take them from ‘muda’ work and move them to new jobs needed by  new customers and even grow into new products and new markets.  Leaders are not strangers to those in the plant and on the line.  Leaders have built a feel for the operation that extends beyond the scorecards and reports by often rolling their sleves up and working shoulder to shoulder on the floor and in the conference rooms.   This kind of involvement is fundamental to developing the current and future value maps and streams and identifying the first Kaizen.   Good leaders don’t leave that job to consultants and delegates. 

Are your sleeves up or down?


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