Executives: Your Charge as a Lean Leader

lean leader

Enjoy this excerpt from the latest Lean Business Report. Download the full report here.

If we were to point to one defining challenge for businesses today, it would be innovating fast enough to keep up with the blistering pace of disruptive competition. Lean can help businesses do just that — but it relies on an evolved form of leadership to do so.

As Lean leaders, it’s our job to unlock all of the knowledge in our employees by aiming to give them — in Dan Pink’s words — autonomy, mastery, and purpose. We will get our best organizational results if we give our employees the autonomy to do their work their way. We can do that safely if we invest in their skills so they have the mastery to do the work well. And we will get the right outcomes, and recruit and retain the right people, if we provide clear and consistent information about our organizational purpose — not the dry “what” but the inspirational “why.”

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Respect for People: Lean’s Neglected Pillar

respect for people

Respect for People is one of the pillars of Lean and of our culture at LeanKit. We’re very proud of the respectful culture we’ve built together. It’s something that visitors and newcomers comment on when they talk about our company.

But, as I had to confess at a recent company meeting, we haven’t worked as diligently on defining and training people on this “soft” pillar of Lean as we have the “hard” Continuous Improvement pillar (by implementing tools like Kanban, A3, Stop the Line, automation, etc).

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Customer-Centric to the Core

customer-centric to our core | LeanKit

At LeanKit, Lean isn’t just the product we sell. It’s in our name because we passionately believed in it when we founded the company, and we still do today.

By embracing Lean across our company, we’ve adopted a customer-centric approach — not only in our product development, but also in every other department, from finance and accounting to sales and marketing.

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Lean: It’s About Pulling Together

Lean requires the discipline and teamwork of a crew team.

What Lean Teams Can Learn from Crew

I was working on a conference presentation the other day and found a picture of a crew team. It reminded me of a similar picture our marketing team has used on the LeanKit website, and how well that metaphor fits both Lean and me personally. I was in crew in high school. I still have my team jacket in my closet 20 years later. That may be corny nostalgia, but it speaks to the impact of the experience.

I rowed in quads. Quads are the boats where each rower faces backwards, with an oar in each hand, and there’s a coxswain in the back of the boat facing forward to guide the crew. It’s a wonderful metaphor for successful Lean teamwork.

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