Do You Need a "Director of Discipline?"


I had a conversation with another experienced lean person (she is in the auto industry) who commented about how she once saw a business card with a title that was eye-catching:

“Director of Discipline”

How many of our lean efforts are stumbling, crumbling, or failing because of a lack of discipline? I would define discipline simply “doing what you say you will do.” I see companies where management generally has a short attention span, which hampers the nuts and bolts execution of lean practices.

The fundamentals of lean are built around discipline. 5S is a systematic method that requires discipline on the part of all involved — the workers who organize and maintain their workplaces, but also from managers who are responsible for overseeing, coaching, and auditing 5S methods (one of the S's is “sustain” — that is the discipline step). When things get out of place, does management have the discipline to routinely be walking the shopfloor and (more importantly) pointing out problems as they are seen?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. TPM is also based on discipline. If you have a tool change that needs to be done every 300 pieces, then DO IT every 300 pieces. It requires management discipline to make sure TPM tasks are being done and that corners are not being cut to meet short-term numbers.

    Standard Work and Kaizen are all about discipline. It requires discipline to make sure tasks are being done in the defined manner (according to the Standard Work). It requires discipline to make sure that a real kaizen process is taking place — controlled experiments rather than random chaotic attempts at improvement.

    Without discipline, people will be tempted to fall back to old habits, methods or practices.

    If management is serious about implementing lean, then managers (from front line supervisors on up) need to be walking the floor and making sure that the teams are following disciplined practices.

    Sure we want to encourage employees to take intiative and be empowered. But, it’s also the role of a lean manager to instill discipline throughout the organization.


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