Home > Community> The Lean Post> Ask Art: How Do I Get Senior Leadership On Board with Lean?

Ask Art: How Do I Get Senior Leadership On Board with Lean?

by Art Byrne
July 1, 2013

Ask Art: How Do I Get Senior Leadership On Board with Lean?

by Art Byrne
July 1, 2013 | Comments (8)

Since publishing The Lean Turnaround I have been speaking and visiting companies actively, and I am asked this question on a daily basis. People ask this question in many ways, including "How do I get my board of directors on board with lean?" Most of the time this question reflects either a lack of understanding of lean, or a belief that lean just won’t work in a person's specific company. But in just about every situation this question goes to the heart of the problem of implementing lean in any company: the lack of leadership.

Having led more than 30 lean turnarounds in 14 different countries since 1982, I’ve seen several powerful ways individuals can tackle this problem. First and foremost, remember that you are the CEO of one starting point for your company’s lean turnaround. You probably control one area of your company. It could be a division, a plant, or a product line. It could be some other functional area like order entry, accounting, or new product development. If you are an individual contributor, say a kaizen leader, you will probably need to convince one of the managers in your operation to work with you.

Then I recommend that you start by implementing a "a model line"—a demonstration project if you will—in your area. I suggest that you do this quietly at first (you don't want someone to stop you) and that you work with diligence and discipline to take your lean work to a high level. Once this is working smoothly you should have clear results that enable you to convince your boss to expand your work to the next plant or department. Eventually you should have enough of a basis to convince senior management that a) this works in your company, b) it gives great results, and c) it will work in all areas of the company.

Experience has taught me that lean is a strategic way of doing business that cannot be delegated down, that it must be led by the CEO in a hands-on, out-front, out in the gemba-way. But I also recognize that very few companies have that type of leadership in place. So if you recognize the power of lean and are committed to getting started, I suggest you lead by launching your model line. It is much harder to implement lean in a bottom up way like this, but it is certainly not impossible. Don’t get discouraged, keep pushing.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Search Posts:
Problem Solving to Align Purpose, Process and People
Ernie Richardson & Tracey Richardson
Transformational Leadership: An Experiential Program for Lean Leaders
Jim Luckman, Kirk Paluska, Margie Hagene & Tom Foco
Gold Mine, The (audiobook)
By Freddy Ballé and Michael Ballé
Toyota Culture
By Jeffrey Liker and Michael Hoseus
Was this post... Click all that apply
HELPFUL INTERESTING INSPIRING ACCURATE
81 people say YES
62 people say YES
60 people say YES
57 people say YES
Related Posts
8 Comments | Post a Comment
D July 02, 2013
4 People AGREE with this comment
Really? Quite inspiring.

Reply »

Cameron McOmish July 02, 2013
7 People AGREE with this comment

I have been involved in a number of LEAN transformations and I can only but agree with this article. One of the fundamental keys to LEAN success is leadership - if it is not highly supportive and leading change then failure is all most certain no matter how much effort is put in.



Reply »

Filippo Salvadego (Italy) July 03, 2013
3 People AGREE with this comment
Especially in these crisis period, everybody from the bottom to the top has to take his own leadership capability and accountability. Managing and lead by example will increase the overall organization engagement.
The mith of Cassandra teaches us that you will not listened and that you need also an help from outside, a consultant, of the organization (the Lean Turnaround book explains very well this concept). The big and main effort is to built the critical mass which we normally consider the 30% on board. Keep pushing! Ciao.
Filippo


Reply »

Ron Jacques July 03, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Art, you said it all when you said that few companies have the right type of leadership to drive a lean transformation. One of my most recent experiences involved a leader who believed that kaizens were to be no longer than one hour and that training of individuals was a waste of valuable time and money.


Believe it or not it was actually one of the facilities within your JW Childs Group. I hope that you can inspire that individaul to get with the program and learn to understand the true value of lean.    


Reply »

John Kelly July 08, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Good post.


In my experience it is relatively easy to get the senior team to buy-in. The real struggle is the middle tier... the people whose power base is eliminated when you implement Lean.  It is vital to get middle management buy-in to a Lean initiative. Without it your efforts will be in vain.

My experience is in the service area and there are many mid-tier people whose roles exist because of the muda in existing operations. Working through the change process becomes difficult when the true impact of Lean on their roles is understood. If you operate in the consulting space it will be even more difficult for you. It is difficult to tell the client that some of his/her people are suddenly being obstructive.


The story of Porsche in Lean Thinking (Ch9) is one I have lived in a few different guises.

If you are trying to change within an organisation, you must demonstrate benefits from waste elimination. To get flow benefits you probably need to look to areas that are outside of your control (unless you are lucky enough to be a process owner). Lean is a data driven discipline. If you demonstrate the benefits of Lean, senior management will take heed.



Reply »

Caj Oosters July 10, 2013
Art, Exactly the way I"m trying to introduce lean in my (health care) organization. Thanks for giving support with your post to my gut feeling that with or without the backing vocals of senior leadership, I should just begin in my own department. This helps. I'll have to rethink which will be my model line but I"m sure this way of thinking helps me, my team and in the end the organisation further.

Reply »

Hollie Jensen July 10, 2013
6 People AGREE with this comment
One thing I find I experience with leaders isn't actually a lack of support for "lean" work, but more a lack of understanding about what that really means and even more importantly, what that means for THEM!



Reply »

Vitezslav Pilmaier July 16, 2013

I fully agree with this post - working as a Kaizen Officer in the lack of senior leadership there has been only two main strategies - making friends among operational managers (and thus convincing them to start Kaizen their units) and doing some "Guerilla Kaizen" (aka "quietly doing some model line"). Just one add - for such situation one needs a lot of patient to do not give up as it is a long journey...



Reply »

Search Posts:
Problem Solving to Align Purpose, Process and People
Ernie Richardson & Tracey Richardson
Transformational Leadership: An Experiential Program for Lean Leaders
Jim Luckman, Kirk Paluska, Margie Hagene & Tom Foco
Gold Mine, The (audiobook)
By Freddy Ballé and Michael Ballé
Toyota Culture
By Jeffrey Liker and Michael Hoseus
"Too Busy to Walk the Gemba"
Do CEOs Matter?