Womack and Shook Leadership Webinar


Here is an archived webinar with Jim Womack and John Shook, brought to us by the Lean Enterprise Institute, titled “Lean Management and the Role of Lean Leadership.”

Here is a link to a text Q&A that Womack did with questions sent in during the webinar.

One interesting topic that came up was the balance between vertical functions and horizonal “value stream” leaders. While Womack strongly advocates a dedicated “Value Stream Leader” position, he is also advocating for strong vertical function knowledge bases and leadership. What he warns against is the “dreaded” matrix organization, where someone has two equally strong bosses. That sounds like a recipe for chaos.

John Shook then talked about how lean leaders change the lean process:

“A leader's job is first to get each person to take initiative to solve problems and improve his or her job. Second, ensure that each person's job is aligned to provide value for the customer and prosperity of the company.”

Another great quote, as told to Gary Convis when he first joined Toyota: “Lead the organization as if you have no power.”

I really like how Shook puts this idea out: The “old” style of leadership said “Do it my way.” I think we could all agree (if we're working on lean, that is) that the old style is not ideal, it's not respectful of people and it doesn't get the right results. The 1980's “empowerment” model says “Do it your way.” I agree that this approach isn't the essence of lean — empowerment of this style is an abdication of your leadership responsibility. What if everyone decides to do things differently or in a way that's bad for quality?

Shook says lean leadership says “Follow me… let's figure this out together.” I like that.

Lots of good stuff in there, particularly the Shook material — check it out, see the slides, and take a listen.

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