Leading Lean A-Z: K, Be Kinetic


This continues a series titled Leading Lean A-Z. This post is K: Be Kinetic.

Did you ever have one of those days where you just wanted to put your feet up on your desk and breath in and out for a while? The lean journey will still be there. There are still many challenges out there. I don't need to do it all today. Let's just take our foot off the gas.

But change requires momentum. That momentum is either gained or lost. And to feed that momentum, the leader must be a continuous provider of kinetic energy.

Consider the example of the flywheel. Once you build up enough momentum, carrying that forward requires little energy. But the energy required to get up to speed is substantial. If you keep pushing, pausing, pushing, pausing, you will never get the flywheel with enough momentum that progress becomes easy.

Why does this matter in real life? Why is it my energy?

It doesn't have to be your energy. Many of the Leading Lean characteristics are about how you get others to push with you. But you don't get others to put in energy unless you are. You must create the wake.

Consider the other people in your organization that want to move forward. If they must create motion from stillness, it requires a lot of energy and willpower. UNLESS there is a wake to follow in. If you can create a wake for them, they can follow your lead with dramatically less energy than without it. Your job in being kinetic is to create enough forward motion and energy that people can draft in your wake and help you build that momentum.

But a lean leader also wants to preserve their own kinetic energy, so instead of taking a break, they will slip into someone else's wake for a bit. This preserves their energy while still moving forward. You didn't stop. You just found a temporary path of forward motion that required less energy that cutting your own path.

Creating a wake for others to follow makes it easier for them. Being a good follower and slipping into others way makes it easier for you. Slipping back and forth between these two energy modes is a sign of an expert lean leader, one who never loses momentum but knows how to be efficient with their energy over the long haul of a major change.

Being kinetic also requires shifting your direction when you run into immovable barriers. There are plenty of barriers worth breaking through. Just like a stream cutting a path through the earth, it will occasionally cut right through the middle of a rock. But most of the time it finds away around the rock. The lean leader has to sometimes find their way around barriers. If there is a lack of interest, change the story, attach to something that does have interest, or go find the one corner of the organization that does have interest. If the skills aren't strong enough to success, scale back and focus on just one skill, or get some help. Know the barriers. Know the best way to maintain your forward motion. And sometimes that means bending and flowing around some barriers.

What are your actions to be kinetic? Ask yourself the following:

1. What are you doing to create a wake for others to follow?

2. Who has a wake you can slip into?

3. What barriers do you need to flow around instead of run against?

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Jamie Flinchbaugh
Jamie Flinchbaugh is an accomplished Entrepreneur, Senior Executive, and Board Member with more than 20 years of success spanning finance, manufacturing, automotive, and management consulting. Leveraging extensive operational experience, Jamie is an invaluable asset for a company seeking expert guidance with process improvements, lean strategies, and leadership coaching in order to transform operations, reduce costs, and drive profitability. His areas of expertise include continuous improvement, entrepreneurship, coaching and training, process transformation, business strategy, and organizational design.


  1. I like the comment about “slipping into others wake”, since one of the challenges I face is maintaining energy and momentum. Good thought, Jamie. Thanks.

  2. Dean, I think lean leaders often think of others before themselves. But if they don’t pay attention to their own needs – energy, momentum, learning, etc. – they will eventually “hit to wall.”

  3. Great points, Jamie! Leaders also need to help team members break through barriers. It’s important for leaders to overcome barriers as well as maintain their energy in order to help employees do their jobs and feel engaged and empowered. Theresa Wellbourne of eePulse who’s also affiliated with the University of Michigan and the Center for Effective Organizations at Marshall School of Business at USC so believes in the importance of leader energy as a barometer of engagement that she regularly measures energy.

  4. Measuring a person’s energy level? Interesting.

    Seems like that would be an example of a counter to “if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”. Managing the energy of leaders is important but how do you measure it in a meaningful way?

  5. Theresa Welbourne’s Leadership Pulse is the first and only real-time leadership benchmarking and learning project, http://www.leadershippulse.com/leadership_pulse/

    Leaders are self-reporting their energy levels over time. (In my last post I wasn’t as clear as I should have been. Also, I mistyped Theresa’s last name. It’s one “l” in Welbourne. My apologies.)

    By participating in the survey, leaders see how they’re doing compared to themselves and others in the project. It’s very thought-provoking and provides people with interesting data to then have a dialogue about. Theresa talks about “powering data and dialogue driven leadership.”

  6. Liz – thanks for sharing the leadership pulse and energy work with your readers. As far as it being subjective, I wanted to share that the energy measurement work I’ve done has extensive research behind it based on data showing what predicts short and long-term firm performance (using data like stock price growth, revenue growth, and even firm survival). I also have over a million data points from employees who report their energy, answer other questions, and provide the much-needed qualitative data that allows us to supplement numbers with stories. There’s a longer story to this, but the net is it works. The other tidbit I wanted to share is that we are finding big losses in energy over the last few years, particularly from leaders. This is due to the added stress, recession, and what I call stacking work syndrome. What alleviates this problem and builds momentum? We have found two things come out in the employee and leadership data: (1) strong and high quality relationships, and this is not about being ‘nice’ but helping each other, supporting each other and even challenging and pushing people to excel and (2) direction – regular direction updates so people stay on the right path.

    At our company, we have been doing short, random “priority moments” to help us improve direction. It has been appreciated by all members of our team. We just send out an email, ask people to stop, copy everyone and talk about their priorities for the day.


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