Leading up and taking risks

A couple of months ago, I wrote in my column for Assembly Magazine on a topic titled “Fix My Manager, Please!” The essense of the column was that we need to push harder up the ladder to get our managers to embrace and move forward with a serious commitment to lean. I hear a great deal of frustration from people who can’t get people ‘above’ them to move, and if that is the constraint, then that is what we must focus on.

On the topic of leading up, while this is by no means a perfect book, I might suggest reading Leading Up.

Through the conversations that followed that column, I thought I would add another thought:

Every person has a relative ability to take risks. It is your call on how to use your protective barrier towards productive results. So the question is: how much risk can you take on and how can you use it to lead up? So what allows you the ability to take risks? There are some factors less in your control : be the boss’ son or daughter, hold dirt on someone, build yourself into a critical job and keep all the information to yourself or buy a lot of rounds of drinks. But at the end of the day, the most valuable way to build a tolerance for risk is performance. If you perform well, do you job at a level of excellence, a lot of things can be tolerated. If you are not performing well, then you can not handle much risk.

So here’s the constraint buster. Use lean in your own job to dramatically improve your personal performance and worth to the organization. Use the leeway that provides you to challenge top management to commit to lean. And if that doesn’t work, you now at least have a great performance-based resume.

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Jamie Flinchbaugh is a lean advisor, speaker, and author. In addition to co-founding the Lean Learning Center, he has helped build nearly 20 companies as either a co-founder, board member, advisor, or angel investor. These companies range from high-performance motorcycles to SaaS tools for continuous improvement. He has advised over 300 companies around the world in lean transformation, including Intel, Harley-Davidson, Crayola, BMW, and Amazon. Jamie co-authored the popular book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, and continues to share his experiences as a Contributing Editor forIndustryWeek and as a blogger at JamieFlinchbaugh.com. He holds degrees from Lehigh University, University of Michigan, and MIT, and continues to teach and mentor on campus. Jamie is best known for helping to transform how we think about lean from a tools-centric model to one based on principles and behaviors. His passion for lean transformation comes from seeking to unlock the great potential that people possess to build inspiring organizations.

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