Every organizational outcome is the result of a process.  Some processes are conducted in a very effective manner, while other processes are inefficient and often fail to produce the intended results.  There are two views I would like you to consider as we explore the meaning and practices of Lean.  We are all familiar with the Performance System – the work undertaken to improve the processes that create value for our customers.  One key to understanding the significant failure rate in deploying Lean, a statistic often cited today, is the lack of a second system.  The Management System focuses on the processes used to audit, evaluate, and apply the necessary resources to improve and sustain the outcomes of the Performance System.                                           

If you envision a list of activities including performance evaluations, team and individual development, start of shift / end of shift communications, standard work audits, Gemba walks, and management reporting, you would be correct.  The big shift comes when Leaders Standard Work is layered over these activities to ensure they are completed in a standard method, and the leadership outcomes are evaluated against intended results.  What is subtly missing from this list is the act of delivering solutions to process problems. 

There is a cultural shift required for these methods to result in the outcomes that attract so many executives to the Lean / Operational Excellence philosophy.  In the west we often hear this culture referred to as Servant Leadership.  Author and CEO Robert Chapman goes a long way to clearly defining this culture in his book Everybody Matters.  This cultural shift is a  requirement for Lean Systems to function as intended. 


This regular post will be focused on the Management System.  In it we will examine the processes, tactics, and philosophies that will bring greater awareness to our current thinking and execution of these processes.  The two questions I ask managers to ask themselves on a constant basis are these: Q1 Did you follow your standard work (for those without standard work this is the incentive to develop it), and Q2 Did you produce the intended results? 

It is out of the second question that the title for this series comes – Intentions.  I hope you enjoy the conversations, considerations, new ideas, and reminders from my career experience and practice.  My intention is to contribute to your success in the work you do.

Approaching The Edge

As a Lean practitioner at the tactical, integrative, and strategic levels, I coach team members at every level of the organizations I serve.  The common breakdown I find at every level occurs in the area of relationship and influence. This is challenging space, culture, because the deeper you focus on it, the further away from the source you will move and not enough thought or intention is given to the true source.

One statement I use often to help us move away from the focus on culture and toward the source is this; “Culture is a reflection of those behaviors we tolerate or correct.”  This begins to shed light on relationship as the source of culture.  One cannot consider this statement and continue to focus outward in the pursuit of cultural change.  Culture comes from our presence in the organization.

In the Approaching the Edge series we will explore the many elements that I consider part of tactical leadership.  These include ideas about context, conversation, relationship, focus, individual and group performance.  This area has had the greatest impact on my own work, followed by the implementation of the elements of the Management System which we explore in Intentions.  To round out the practice of Lean we bring the Performance System into consideration through How do you do that?!?

I hope you enjoy the conversations, considerations, new ideas, and reminders from my career experience and practice.  My intention is to contribute to your success in the work you do.