The Lean Manager

Getting started as a lean manager can be a daunting task because in many cases people don’t really understand what it is you’re supposed to be doing.  In many cases the lean manager will also have other roles within the facility, and has been given the task of implementing lean concepts as well.  One of the most important things a lean manager needs to excel at is the ability to work with people throughout the organization, regardless of their title or level within the company.

Know the Importance of the Lean Manager

If you are starting as a lean manager in a company which has not yet implemented lean standards it is essential to ensure everyone knows the importance of this process.  Explaining the benefits of the changes you want to implement to front line employees as well as executive level management is necessary in order to be successful in this role.  This starts with knowing your own value and the value of what you’re attempting to do.  Never underestimate the benefits of the lean process.

Getting Buy-In

Whether this is the first time people have heard of lean concepts or you’re with a company that has been using it for years, you need to get buy in for any new initiative.  When you are first getting ready to start a continuous improvement strategy you need to find people at a variety of levels which will help you gain the acceptance of their peers.  It is almost impossible to present a new idea like this to a boardroom full of executives, for example, and have them accept it.

If, however, you approach one or two members of the senior management team and take the time to explain to them the benefits of this plan, they can turn around and help sell the idea to their peers.  This process can be repeated at other levels within the organization, but in many cases once the senior managers are on board other areas will fall in line quickly.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Front Line Buy-In

One of the biggest mistakes a lean manager can make is thinking that once the project has been approved by management that the front line employees will simply jump on board.  Attempting to force these types of changes on people is a big mistake and can cause the long term failure of any initiative.  Instead, attempt to get the buy in from this level early on in the game.  Incorporate their thoughts, suggestions and concerns into the proposal as their insight will be among the most valuable.

It might even be helpful to start with this lower level and include the fact that the front line value adding employees are already on board in the presentation to any executives.  This will show that the implementation will go smoothly because those who will be doing the actually work are already ready to take on the changes.   Each process or improvement will need to be handled differently so coming up with the right strategy each time is essential.

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