Jonathan Escobar Marin is Director Head of global lean management for the HARTMANN Group. He also is a strategic partner with the High Performance Organization Global Alliance, and a Postgraduate Director and Master’s program associate professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. Prior to working for HARTMANN, he worked at Procter & Gamble, where he led several operations, product launches, and lead an internal transformation after a benchmark between P&G and Toyota.
The main prerequisite for establishing a lean strategy is to get the full engagement of your C-Suite starting with the CEO. And I am not simply talking about “support” or “sponsorship”, I am talking about active engagement on-the-floor. Without C-Suite engagement there is no lean transformation in the sense of a business transformation that ends in better products and services, improved customer satisfaction, breakthrough performance results and a more capable and engaged workforce that is able to respond to increasing market challenges.
How to get them on board? There are many possibilities, for example by:
building a pilot and showing them first outstanding results
helping them to see successful implementations in other relevant organizations
preparing exchange activities with other C-Suite members who are already engaged in lean transformations
showing them the power of lean in eye-opening on-the-floor sessions, etc.
There is not a magical recipe or roadmap for this. Some will need just one of the activities above and others will need all of them, maybe even to repeat them several times in different steps. This phase, as all the other ones in the transformation, is not linear and step-by-step, but rather circular and iterative. In any case, insist in all the activities above and many others you may consider necessary until you have demonstrated the power of lean and you get your C-Suite on board.
Once this is done, you have to consider these 5 critical sins that, even after getting the C-Suite engagement, kill many of the lean transformations:
The toolbox miracle:
Understanding lean just as a set of methods, and considering their mere implementation as the objective.
The Copy-Paste obsession:
Most of what makes high performing organizations successful is something you cannot copy and paste: it’s their underlying values and principles, their working culture. Instead, try to understand the principles behind these cultures, and build a similar vision, goals, tactics, systems and aspirations with your people.
The experts’ kingdom:
Specialists evaluate the work and designe future states without involving all levels of the organization and without integrating the overall company management system.
Tolerance to mediocrity and complacency:
The lean promise is to deliver superior performance by developing average people capabilities. This happens in a creative tension where everyone is engaged to always find a better way. Therefore, the right attitude at all organizational levels is not negotiable.
Dismiss the short & long term-balance:
We cannot orient the whole lean strategy towards delivering quick wins and fast financial results. At the same time, we cannot forget that all change effort needs continuous small doses of success and achievement that boost motivation and ensure sustainability. Therefore, you need a perfect balance of long-term initiatives and short-term boosters.
How can anyone improve his or her style of leading with lean?
Anyone? I would rather say anyone who commits to developing her/his leadership value through the following formula:
As you can see, the capability to lead on-the-floor is critical in order to define ones value as a leader. For this, leadership attitude and commitment are not negotiable. Leaders must build a deep understanding of the value-creating work at all levels, becoming never-ending learners who can coach and teach, inspiring their teams to challenge organizational assumptions and to bring problems to the surface. In essence, it’s about connecting the daily work of their teams with the broader goals and value-driven purpose of the company.