From the excellent DailyKaizen lean healthcare blog:
I think every Internal LEAN consultant struggles with when they need to consult, when they need to mentor and when the need to lead. Changing roles is necessary when you work in an organization with a high variability in leadership competency and LEAN knowledge. It can also be dangerous, if you as the consultant lose track of what role you are planning at any given moment and why you are playing that role. My greatest challenge lately has been holding back from the temptation to take over leadership at the first sign that a leader is wavering in their support or floundering in their action.
There’s a right time for each role. I see this as an external consultant to hospitals. There’s a time to ask questions and try to lead others to see the problem (or solution). Sometimes, you have to just tell them and demonstrate a way of thinking or a method once so the client can learn. But, you can’t let them get dependent on you.
Let’s talk about something simple such as visual controls — putting tape outlines or shadows around items so waste is eliminated (wasted time looking for items). I’ll often go through this progression:
- Show them once (demonstrate — this is how it should be done…. and explain WHY)
- Ask them to try it and coach them as they do it
- Have them do it on their own and come back to give feedback
You have to build confidence in people to do it themselves. But, you also want to make sure they learn how to make a good positive impact and to avoid costly mistakes. The amount you’re willing to let someone make mistakes depends on the impact of such a mistake. If it’s a minor cost impact, let them make the mistake and learn. If it’s a safety item, you have to intervene and make sure it’s done right.
As a lean leader, I’ve always thought you play dual roles also:
- Knowing when to ask questions, to be Socratic, to guide and steer
- Knowing when to be directive, when to set demanding specific guidelines
I think the real art of leadership (as manager or consultant) is knowing when to “ask” and knowing when to “tell.” Just make sure you’re asking more than you’re telling.
What do you think?
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