Posted by: Knightbird | January 7, 2011

Passion and Leadership

Because my staff has embraced lean management principles so enthusiastically, and generated such good results with it, I have the honor of hosting many leaders who express interest in what we do and how we do it. A typical visit lasts about 3 hours. We bring our guest to various work areas and let one of our Lean Champions or Executives discuss what they do and how Lean has improved their work lives. A part of that discussion includes the tools of lean, but some of it does truly include a discussion of how our lives and the lives of our customers have improved. An employee will occasionally offer insight into how lean even impacts their home life. A couple of employee’s have 5 S’ed parts of their home. They also talk about how they appreciate Lean for the benefits they are able to deliver to their customers.

Most of our visitors focus almost immediately on the Tools based Lean. A few see the potential for the Culture of Lean. I try to explain that we focus on 2 goals that drive everything we do: Respect for People and Continuous Improvement. While there are so many aspects to implementing Lean, I found that Respect for People is the most important one. With Respect, employee’s will embrace Continuous Improvement and all that Lean has to offer. IF YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT RESPECTING PEOPLE, LEAN WILL FOLLOW. Oh, sorry for yelling, but I did want to make a point. Having followers, by definition, means you are a Leader. That is my point.

Learning how to be a Lean Leader consumed a lot of my time. I read voraciously, scoured the literature and the Internet for inspirational stories, tips, tools and techniques. My Sensei, Dr. Tom Jackson, let me know in no uncertain terms that my presence (that meant being involved in Kaizen totally-no phone calls or absenting myself for other business) was important to leading staff to engagement with Lean. He is totally right. Although I have led Kaizen, and learned all of the tools used in Kaizen, I was eventually “kicked out” of the improvement process except for the report out at the end. I still visit for periods of time, but Lean has become engrained with what we do and it is no longer special or unique. It is a way of doing business.

Advising potential lean leaders is tough. Because they have been in the command and control trenches, with angry customers, bad processes, unhappy employees and dissatisfied board members, they are looking for tools to help them get out of the messes. They are looking for relief for themselves, and the customer is not always THE integral part of the solutions. However, by immersing myself in Lean Learning, truly understanding what “Learning to See” truly means, and trying to figure out how to lead a Lean transformation, I am learning what Passion is. Passion is, are you ready for this, wanting the best you can deliver for your customers—in other words, respecting your customer. Then you truly learn how to “go to the Gemba,” how to really listen to what an employee and customer are trying to say, and how to store information for future use as your ability to deliver ever more value becomes a reality.



  1. […] writing dal blog A3 Thinking di Art Smalley: Gli errori comuni degli A3 (traduzione automatica)Passion and Leadership dal blog Lean in Alaska di Patrick Anderson: Che cosa è la vera passione? (traduzione […]

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