Introduction to Lean Leadership Video

In our previous two posts, we revealed our basic Introduction to Lean Healthcare Video and Introduction to Lean Manufacturing Video.  In this post, we are releasing our Introduction Lean Management video.  This series of animated cartoons covers the basics of managing a Lean Operation including the role of the management team, coaching techniques such as the improvement kata, lean accounting, and other key concepts of lean management.  Also, we wanted to remind you of our upcoming Lean Certification training in Orange County.  Please visit our website for details at


Lean Healthcare, Lean Leadership, and Lean Certification

We are happy to announce three new opportunities for training in October and November 2013 in Southern California:

We have a 3-day Blended Learning Lean Manufacturing Certification program on October 1-3, 2013 in San Diego, CA.  The program includes 3 days of interactive, instructor-led training plus self-paced online training as well.  Participants will learn how to apply each of the principles and tools of lean including Value Stream Mapping, Continuous Flow Manufacturing Cells, Lean Production Control, Level Pull Production, kanban and pull systems, 5S, quick changeover, TPM, problem solving methods, and kaizen events. Certification requires the completion of a lean manufacturing project to reinforce the learning and achieve real results.  This event will take place at the Hilton San Diego Airport / Harbor Island.   Pricing is $1595 for early registration (by September 1, 2013) and $1695 after.  For details, visit Lean Manufacturing Certification.

Our Lean Healthcare Training program will take place on November 4-5, 2013 in Santa Ana, CA at the Doubletree Club by Hilton Hotel Orange County Airport.  This interactive session will translate basic lean principles and its application to achieve the Triple Aim of the nation’s health care reform efforts. This two-day workshop will emphasize eliminating wastes throughout the health care continuum including ambulatory and administrative processes, beyond the inpatient settings, using basic lean tools such as Value Stream Mapping, 5S, and A3.  Pricing is $895 for those who register by October 5, 2013 and $995 after.  For details visit Lean Healthcare Training.

Finally, our Lean Leadership Training program will take place on November 13-14, 2013 in Santa Ana, CA  at the Doubletree Club by Hilton Hotel Orange County Airport.    The Lean Leadership program will address the role of leaders within a lean organization including executive management, middle management, and front line supervision.  Lean leadership is different from traditional MBA-style management; in lean thinking, people are not to be managed.  Instead processes are managed and people are given the direction and skills to achieve the strategy of an organization.  The management team must create the right environment or culture to make this happen.  This program includes 2 days of interactive, instructor-led training covering topics such as strategy deployment (aka hoshin kanri, hoshin planning, or policy deployment), Daily Kaizen, A3 Problem Solving and Reporting, Coaching for Improvement using the Improvement Kata, Value Stream Management, and Lean Accounting and Metrics.  This program is for leaders and change agents within healthcare, manufacturing, or service organizations.    Pricing is $895 for those who register by October 14, 2013 and $995 after.  For details, visit Lean Leadership Training.

Lean Leadership

There has been a lot of buzz about lean leadership in the past year or so.  People are beginning to realize that, as author John Maxwell has said, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”  It takes good leadership to create an environment for kaizen to flourish.  We want everyone in the organization to be working toward improvement toward the next goal or target condition.  This is done by identifying problems that get in the way of achieving the target condition and then identifying and implementing countermeasures.

While the tools of lean are great (I am not one of those that say that the tools are unimportant- they are important!), leadership is critically important.   Following is a 3 minute cartoon that talks about the various aspects of lean leadership, including creating a lean culture, strategy deployment, and coaching and development.

Lean, Kaizen, and Continuous Improvement

What is management’s role in continuous improvement?  Very often, management folks believe that their role is to tell their employees what to do, solve their problems, and identify better ways to carry out their work.   When you mention continuous improvement to them, they talk about projects lead by “experts.”  But, can this actually be called continuous improvement?  While projects and rapid improvement events work very well for making breakthrough improvements, they are not really “continuous improvement.”   They are step improvements at points in time.   Continuous improvement requires day-to-day recognition of problems and identification of solutions, a continuous quest toward providing defect free products, services, and information to the customer when they are needed.  The people who do the work are allowed to identify problems and even propose and implement solutions.  Management creates the environment for this to happen and provides the support and resources.  Engineers provide expertise in problem solving and faciltiate the development and application of countermeasures to problems.

Following is a short cartoon about continuous improvement; feel free to share it with your colleagues.

Lean Leadership

Why do some organizations seem to find success on their lean journeys more quickly than others? Why does it appear that employees are eager to participate in lean at some organizations and are not so excited about lean at others? Based on my observations, I believe the single biggest factor in lean successes is leadership.

Let’s consider two companies, ABC Corporation and it’s biggest competitor XYZ, Inc.  Both of these organizations began their lean journey about 1 year ago, but one has found much more success than the other.

Both companies put together “lean” core teams that were thoroughly trained in the Toyota Production System methodologies, and both had the same lean (outside) teacher, who performed the training and facilitated the first value stream mapping and kaizen activities at each.

ABC Corporation, within the first few months, made substantial gains in productivity on the factory floor and reduced WIP by more than 80%; within the first six months, they had begun reducing finished goods and have a plan in place to reduce their FGI by 60% before the end of 2007. Employees at all levels were beginning to make suggestions for improvements and were asking when they would be able to participate in a kaizen event. The VP of Operations and factory floor employees are on a first name basis, and the VP of Operations has made a concerted effort to talk to employees about lean, it’s importance to the company, and it’s value to them as individuals. Not only did he do this in a formal setting, but he does this regularly on the factory floor.

XYZ, on the other hand, has completed some kaizen events that have identified improvements, but the improvements have not “stuck.” XYZ’s VP of Operations, after 3 months, had considered halting the program because he believed that the employees were not ready for lean. In contrast to his ABC Corporation counterpart, this VP almost never visits the factory floor, and many of the operators are not even sure who he is.

After studying both organizations, I’ve compiled a list of some examples of actions ABC’s management has taken that have contributed to their success in contrast to those things that XYZ has done.

ABC Corporation XYZ Corporation
Had all executives trained in lean; VP persuaded Division President of lean’s benefits. Held brief overview of lean for executives. Most were ok with the idea as long as it did not impact their organizations negatively.
Division President and VP of Operations attend kaizen event kickoffs and reports-out. President never interacts with low level employees. VP of Operations occasionally does but never on the shop floor.
Clearly communicated what lean means to all employees not only at formal meetings but on an on-going basis. Communicated lean benefits to the organization at employee quarterly meeting.
Rewards employees for their lean ideas and participation Expects participation from all employees; rarely recognizes an employees’ contributions to lean.
VP of Operations visits the factory floor daily and talks with operators VP of Operations rarely visits the factory floor.
Top management backs up their support of lean by stating that participation in lean events supersedes all other meetings/activities. Top management stated that lean was a high priority, but many kaizen events are cancelled or poorly attended due to more pressing issues.
VP of Operations actually participates in events on occasion, and the team members (including operators) are very comfortable with that. If the VP of Operations participated in a kaizen event, it would likely be a one-man show.
Management stated that no layoffs would occur due to a lean improvement, and they have backed up that claim. Management said that lean was necessary to keep the factory in the U.S. but made no promises. Employees are skeptical.

While both organizations had identical training and very similar business models, the results they achieved are markedly different. Leadership style and approach to lean are key to creating a lean culture. Without a lean culture, some success is possible; however, it is impossible to achieve the kind of breakthrough improvements you might read about in case studies.

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