Imagine that you visited a Doctor for a serious ailment and that he recommended a treatment that had not only returned other patients to full health but had also brought them to better health than before. I’m sure that you’d be very excited to begin the treatment and would ask the Doctor to immediately write a prescription. However, how would you feel if the Doctor then advised you that the treatment was only successful in around 10% of cases, with the remaining circa. 90% experiencing a range of short-term improvements in their health but with an ultimate return to their sickened condition?
I’m sure at this point you would probably ask the Doctor to explain the reasons why the treatment had such a low success rate and how you could ensure that you would be in the cohort of successful patients. If his response was that you must make a fundamental change in your lifestyle, be more disciplined with your diet and maintain consistency in your physical regime, and that those who had failed in the treatment had not done so, you would most likely be prepared to embark on the treatment with the belief that you would be successful.
However, what about the role of the Lean Expert in this, as there are very few Lean Transformation attempts that do not involve at least one person of this ilk? Why are they, as the people who should know how to make the transformation successful, and the pitfalls of failure, not enabling a higher success level?
If I link this to the 5 x Why in my earlier article, I would suggest that the Lean Expert is not providing the level of challenge and coaching of the Leadership that is required if they are to truly enable the change.
The 5 x Why most Leaders aren't good enough provided the following analysis:
It is therefore my hypothesis that most Experts are failing to intervene at the Root Cause of the Leadership failure, which should be their primary role. If we truly believe that Lean Thinking is about Respect for People, then enabling the Leadership to live and breath this principle has got to be the critical success factor of the Lean Transformation and central to the Lean Expert's mission.
Lean Experts often fall into ineffective behaviours, as they struggle to live Lean in the way that I highlighted in my article "The meaning of Lean", where it was explained as an acronym:
LEAN = Leadership, Excellence, Analysis and No
What this means is that, instead of driving a Leadership behaviour focussed on a respect for people and the removal of waste in the Value Stream, the drive for excellence through data driven problem solving and by a strong focus on what are the true priorities; the Lean Expert becomes simply a facilitator of improvement events, a trainer, an administrator and part of a traditional improvement effort. Whilst this may sound like it is still an effective use of their time, it will not result in the transformation that they, and their Organisation, signed up for.
I am a true believer in Lean Thinking and the Transformational impact that it will bring to a business if properly deployed. However, at present Lean isn’t working for the majority of companies and, unless Lean Experts show the humility to accept that their impact on the business can only be through the development of the right behaviours and the discipline to consistently espouse Respect for People as central to the Transformation, they will be part of the continuing failure in the majority of organisations in which it is attempted.
There are many Lean Leadership Books out there but I have reviewed those that I think are of most use on my Book Recommendations page.
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