Gary Convis on Lean Leadership
If you want to learn about the Toyota style of leading people, one of the best sources is Gary Convis. Here is a link to a column written directly by him.
For anyone who is struggling with a “Lean tools” implementation attempt, but sure to check this out. I always find it inspiring to read his approach or to hear him talk about it. Gary is also featured pretty prominently in the David Magee book, How Toyota Became #1: Leadership Lessons from the World's Greatest Car Company.
A highlight from the Convis piece:
“In my opinion, the key to the successful implementation of TPS at NUMMI, and TMMK, and at the other Toyota plants in North America, has been the total commitment on the part of everyone to make it work. By that I mean, all levels of the organization, from team members to the senior managers, have to be aware of the fundamentals of TPS and have to make their best efforts to practice and improve them day-by-day.”
While Lean requires employee engagement and involvement, Lean is not something that can be delegated completely. Leadership needs to understand TPS, not just front-line supervisors. As I've said before, Lean requires commitment and dedication. “Lean” does not succeed or fail. Leaders succeed or leaders fail. Sometimes we fail by giving up too quickly or by not learning more beyond an initial Lean attempt (which might have just been an attempt at a single tool, like 5S or kanban).
He continues to explain the ties between philosophy, tools, and management approaches:
“TPS is an interlocking set of three underlying elements: the philosophical underpinnings, the managerial culture and the technical tools. The philosophical underpinnings include a joint shop-floor, customer-first focus, an emphasis on people first, a commitment to continuous improvement or kaizen, and a belief that harmony with the environment is of critical importance. The managerial culture for TPS is rooted in several factors, including developing and sustaining a sense of trust, a commitment to involving those affected by first, teamwork, equal and fair treatment for all, and finally, fact-based decision making and long-term thinking.”
He also explains the wonderful phrase “to lead the organization as if I had no power.”
Great reading, the whole thing. A great “intro to Lean” if you need something to send to your senior management, maybe. The headline really could read “Role of Management in ANY Lean Environment“.
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