The Role of a Manager in a Lean Company

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The role of the manager sees the largest change when a company starts to implement lean. This can be very unsettling as the manager is usually the person who starts to implement the change in the first place. To implement change and know that you are the first person that needs to change is a hard pill to swallow.

Accepting this is the first step on the way to a lean organisation.

Remember, the only person you can change is yourself; you can only present a better way for others to follow it is their choice whether they do.

As a manager you are responsible for setting the standard for your area, if you always walk past debris on the floor and neglect to pick it up you are showing your team the state of the plant is not important, you must be aware of your actions and the message you are giving at all times.

Let’s take a look at how a lean manager manages.

  • Communicates a high plant standard by modelling the behaviour at all times in the working day.
  • Sets expectations for the area communicate the goals to the team and follows up to ensure the goals are being achieved.
  • Teaches their team by asking questions of the process, the role of the manager is as a coach to the team; go to the place of work ask them what the top issue is today, see if there is anything you can do together to remove the issue, a step on from waiting for them to arrive at your office and more personal than writing an email.
  • Thanks the team for raising problems; in a lean organisation only be identifying your problems can you work to eliminate them, if people stop bringing you problems the business stops improving.

The role of the manager as an enforcer is long past, and yet this zombie idea still walks around in organizations and attacks people.

The deep contribution of lean thinking is showing how one can both lead and care by shifting from using others as an extra pair of hands to develop their own autonomy, teamwork, and initiative.

  1. Make them feel secure: people must feel free of physical injury risk and free of harassment, as well as secure in their jobs and so willing to commit to improvement.
  2. Continuous challenge to make people see problems and improvement opportunities, and develop new skills through training, job rotation, promotion etc.
  3. Utilize full capability by continuously improving value-adding in the job (removing wasteful operations).

What will you do differently today??


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