Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Lean Leadership mindset

In his excellent Gemba Walks, Jim Womack suggests a Lean Leadership mindset. The Lean Leader will:
  1. Embrace the practice of problem-solving by going to the actual place of work, seeing the actual situation, asking great questions about the issues and impediments found, seeking root causes, and showing respect for the lower-level managers and for colleagues at the same organizational level by continuing to ask hard questions until good answers emerge.
  2. Understand that no manager at a higher level should attempt to solve a problem at a lower level on their own. Instead, the higher-level manager can assign responsibility to a manager at a lower level to tackle the problem through continuing dialogue, both vertically with the higher-level manager and horizontally with everyone actually touching the process causing the impediment. This is where Communities of Practice may shine (such as the ones fostered by our Agile Transformation Offices in our various organizations and accounts), by providing ready access to the people most closely involved with and familiar with relevant topics. Problems are best solved right where they are found, in conversation with the people that live with them, rather than pondered in abstract in some remote executive suite.
  3. Know that all problem-solving is about experimentation, preferably by practicing a plan-do-check-act habit of continuous inspection and adaptation. No-one can know the best answer before experiments are conducted, and the many experiments that fail will yield great learning to be applied for the next rounds of experiments.
  4. Appreciate that no problem is ever solved forever. Introducing a promising countermeasure is sure to create other new problems elsewhere in the system. This is not bad - it is to be expected, and it is good, provided that the critical, probing minds of the Leaders keep pursuing continuous improvement.

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