Frustrated Champions


    By Mark Edmondson, LEAN Affiliates

    Last week I had three unrelated yet similar phone conversations that you, an executive in pursuit of excellence, may find of interest. These calls had several similarities:

    – All are with experienced mid-level professionals (they report to a director, VP level) who are the champion for their company's operational change initiative (lean, six sigma, operational excellence, etc.)

    – All are with profitable, large to mid-sized manufacturers or distributors ($200 million, $1.2 billion, $5 billion)

    – All are passionate about making a difference for their company by creatively applying lean and/or six sigma. They all expressed a vision and the desire for transformational changes that would represent a breakthrough for their company.

    – Although this was my first encounter with these folks, all seemed like articulate, informed professionals.

    …and all were frustrated with leadership and looking for another job. The irony is that their management thinks highly of them.

    So what's the problem?

    These champions were frustrated because senior management wasn't serious about making any changes beyond superficial work on the plant floor.

    These champions were frustrated because senior management abrogated their leadership role by delegating operational excellence and lean to someone else within the organization.

    These champions were frustrated because senior management's priority was with “easier” and “faster” ways to achieve bottom line results: mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, outsourcing, squeezing vendors, and reducing headcount.

    It reminded me of a letter from James Womack I received awhile ago that addressed this issue of lack of leadership commitment. His message makes sense: As a professional, you make a difference with the the support you have. I agree, yet these conversations are witness to the cost of this misalignment of intention over a long period of time – you risk losing your good talent.

    I'm not a headhunter, but if you're looking for three high-caliber and somewhat altruistic operations professionals, give me a call.

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    Mark Edmondson
    Mark Edmondson is passionate about achieving rapid, breakthrough results during a company’s lean transformation. With 30 years of front-line experience while working with over 80 companies, Mr. Edmondson developed a philosophy of helping companies create a culture that sustains operational excellence through low cost yet transformative changes.


    1. I agree with Anon, we all are frustrated at times or for extended times where contradictory personal or company goals inhibit the ‘right’ thing to do.

      A suggestion: Why don’t these guys buy or start their own company & do it the right way? FYI- I am working on exactly what I am preaching. Would love some ideas and to partner with some people.

    2. Per the anon comment… I can see both sides, one side saying “these guys should influence their bosses if they’re real leaders,” the other side saying that sometimes you’re just in a hopeless situation and should give up and move on.

      I know I’ve certainly given up and moved on, weighing my role in the organization and what I was up against.

    3. I can understand the guys quite well. It sometimes comes to myself that the future vision of Lean Thinking is not reaching the management. The reason for that can be lying in the person itself or that the time for the idea isn’t right yet.

      So love it, change it or leave it!

      Sometimes the last is a good way to spin the wheel again for the good with a new start.

      Lean Thinking has to come from heart and the most precious asset in that change are the employees:-))

      Best regards, Ralf


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