Making a workplace Lean is really about educating and empowering the workers.
It’s strange to me that everyone wants to show before-and-after pictures of the workplace. It can look dramatic, but it’s secondary. This isn’t the real work of Lean leadership. This is a byproduct.
This above is not the true work. It’s only the surface work. Below is the true work.
The true work is inside the heads and hearts of the staff. It’s in the pre-meeting and during the many short huddles on the shop floor that the true work occurs.
How many so-called leaders think that their work is behind a desk, not on the floor with their workers?
How many so-called leaders (normal people like you and me) — who have been put into positions of authority but who’ve been given no tools or training on how to lift up their workers.
Lean leadership is not just about getting the 5S steps right. It’s not even about making the workplace flow better.
True Lean leadership takes place when you, in your leadership role, help others overcome any fear or reluctance or hesitation they have, help them feel educated and empowered to notice what could be better, and then to actually do the work of making their workflow better.
The Lean leader teaches others to see waste and take effective, controlled, disciplined, methodical action.
The above images are from a Lean Portland Community Consulting project at the ReBuilding Center. Their staff are typical of front line workers everywhere: serious about doing a good job, often frustrated at the problems in the workplace that limit their effectiveness, and eager to improve things.
(They’re better off than many teams, because they all know their organization’s mission, and they believe in it and care about it deeply. That helps make working with them a delight.)