Is This Woman Set Up to Fail?
There are lots of places online where people can ask questions about Lean, such as the LEI forums and numerous LinkedIn groups. I saw one question in a LinkedIn group that really gave me pause… I won't use her name or company name since the LinkedIn groups are somewhat private.
Hello! I've been tasked to lead a Lean Implementation in a division here at [company]. I would like to ‘benchmark' with other manufacturers in North America who have also done a Lean Implementation.
I have training (from 6 years ago) and book reading, but haven't had the opportunity for Lean application until now. I also have a long road to ‘sell' this to upper management. I would love input on how others have successfully implemented Lean, and what roadblocks to avoid.
Your advice would be? Mine is….
My first thought is maybe she should just quit. Is this at all a fair situation to put somebody in. What are the strikes against her here?
- She is, at a staff level, responsible for Lean implementation
- She has no experience with Lean, just some old training and books
- She is expected to sell upper management on Lean
- She has been told to go benchmark, I'm guessing to find a cookbook approach or simple things to copy
OMG. Is this a challenge she should really take on? It seems like a path toward burnout and gray hair. I can see her profile and I don't see any management experience, just individual contributor work.
Clearly, I think she has an uphill battle. There's honor in uphill battles, but at some point you have to wonder if it will be worth the effort to her.
Over the years, I've received many emails from frustrated Lean people who are expected to do miraculous things by just implementing tools when leadership doesn't want to change, nobody has interest in changing the management system, and this lone wolf (or wolf-ette) isn't allowed to get the front line staff involved (gotta keep making parts, you know).
I know one frustrated woman from a hospital who was brought it from a very world-class manufacturing company to “make the hospital Lean” but it sounds like senior leadership doesn't have the first clue about what's really needed and they aren't listening to her recommendations based on her experience. So she's wondering how long she should be loyal and try and at what point she should just quit and leave.
I have personally been a frustrated “lone wolf” – caught in the middle of a manufacturing company that said they wanted to get Lean, but I was supposed to do it myself, constantly fighting to engage the focused factory manager and the front-line manager… very little was happening, but the CEO was bragging about how Lean we were supposedly getting. I learned a lot and it was a huge personal and professional challenge… but we accomplished very little. I know I've helped accomplish quite a lot in a different setting, with better leadership and a better climate. It's not all on the shoulders of the internal “lone wolf” or the lone external consultant who is expected to be some miracle worker.
I'm trying to remember exactly which Podcast it was, but this question came up with Dr. Jeff Liker and he was pretty dry and blunt that a person in a similar situation like this should just quit and go to a company that really wants to make the Lean transformation.
Yes, the woman who asked the question on LinkedIn will learn a ton in this uphill battle, but is it worth it, the amount of stress and effort that's required? What would your advice be? Am I being too discouraging or am I just being realistic?