For a successful continuous improvement journey, there are five things that leaders have to do daily.
- Review job environment and satisfaction
- Develop our people first and motivate participation
- Demand leadership responsibility
- Develop new behavior patterns
- Promote lean thinking and insist on following the new methods and tools
I already discuss the first four, and today is the turn for the last one, Promote & Insist on Lean Methods/Tools. One of the leaderships’ responsibilities is to model the new behaviors, like the use of continuous improvement methods and tools.
We know that communication within a CI culture has to be clear, consistent, and collaborative. The promotion of lean methods and tools need to have the same characteristics. Leadership has to visit the value-creating area (gemba) every day, and while they are there, use the principles and tools that are appropriate for what they see. One skill that lean practitioners learn over time is to identify and act upon those learning opportunities that present themselves while visiting the work areas. Take advantage of every opportunity you can.
Lean thinking is for every day, every time, in every department, by everybody. This statement is true even when things are not going as expected. During those times that things got worse instead of improving is critical to insist on using the CI principles and tools. Why? Because that is the moment that the non-believers and road-blockers are waiting for, the time when things are unacceptable and you, back-up from the new culture behavior.
The integrated use of tools like 5s, visual management, gemba walks, huddle meetings, and problem-solving using PDCA is the perfect vehicle to convey the clarity of purpose, transparency, and collaboration needed for a successful implementation. They also promote standardization, focus on shared goals, effective communication, visualization of current vs. standard, learning, motivation, and engagement. The best way to promote lean thinking is to accomplish your responsibilities as a leader. Learning, teaching, and modeling the new behavior day in and day out is how you will do it. Nobody is perfect, admitting that you don’t know and that you make mistakes is a way to show respect to your team and be a good leader. Show what to do and how to do it. Telling without showing will not be enough.