Lean management (and the leadership implicit within the role) plays an essential role in the operation and success of lean businesses. Without a willingness to adopt a lean leadership approach, companies will struggle to fully benefit from the implementation of lean, as leading influencers will still be fixed in traditional management methods.
Managing lean businesses requires a fresh approach, with managers being considered as coaches, leaders and mentors rather than simply a ‘boss’.
This style of leadership goes hand in hand with the core principles of lean, as it focuses on optimising all aspects of the business, including working relationships between managers and employees.
To help businesses maximise the potential of lean implementation, we have distilled our five essential lean management qualities that every lean manager needs, presented below:
1. Giving vision, focus & direction to the organisation
As forward thinkers, leaders and motivators, lean managers need to be able to provide vision to the business and identify long term goals. Having the ability to set focused targets and continuously reassess goals enables managers to identify which areas of the business are on track and which require refocusing. Lean managers should also be able to view failure to meet their targets as an opportunity to learn and refine underdeveloped processes. This is an essential part of learning which areas of the business has room to improve and grow.
2. Active coach & problem solver
Traditional managers are often criticised for not participating in the workplace enough, which can lead to significant problems getting overlooked and to staff losing motivation. Lean managers are encouraged to spend more time in the working environment, interacting with employees and looking for opportunities to improve processes. That is why lean managers must be able to identify and solve workplace problems confidently, so that they can enhance productivity and continue to make processes flow even better.
3. Good relationship building skills
It is important for lean managers to understand the behaviour of people and build positive relationships with their employees. Being a motivator and a teacher builds rapport with staff and empowers them to take on more responsibility. This results in a happier workforce and increased productivity levels. Conscientious customers will also opt for companies which have good internal relationships. Businesses with a reliable, likeable and enthusiastic manager are more likely to attract loyal customers.
4. Strive for development & improvement
Lean managers should be able to understand how to learn, develop and improve to get the most out of their business and their employees. Constantly searching for new ways to optimise the business will ensure that the company does not stand still or move backwards, but continues to progress. A good lean manager is never fully satisfied with current processes and will always strive to achieve more and continually improve. They are constantly looking to pursue new ideas and find growth areas for development.
5. Customer focus & value systems
Lean thinking prioritises customer value in all business processes, as it helps to establish positive relationships and ongoing customer loyalty. Good lean managers should get to know their customers and use the information to shape significant decisions. Ongoing process improvement and waste reduction will enable all employees provide more value to customers whilst minimising waste and reducing costs. Managers should also encourage employees to adopt the same dedication to high quality and customer value, so that the business remains customer focused throughout.