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Leading Lean – Leaders Must Be Teachers

Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended.  The theme of the forum was leading lean.  Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job.  One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center.  Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.

  1. Leaders Must Be Teachers
  1. Build Tension, Not Stress
  1. Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
  1. Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
  1. Apply Lean to Your Work

Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.

Leaders Must Be Teachers

A teacher is not just someone standing up in front of a classroom explaining how to do something.  That may be part of it, but it is not all of it.  A big part of being a teacher is also being a role model.  Modeling the behaviors that we are teaching others and that we want to see.  My favorite quote about this was “People must see the role model or it isn’t role modeling.”

Jamie is exactly right.

I have spent many hours in front of classes teaching lean principles and lean tools to others over the last 10 years.  I have even spent a lot of time with individuals coaching them in their work environment.  Being patient with them until they start to see something in a new light.  It is very rewarding when someone makes positive changes and you can see it.

Where I have struggled is with role modeling.  Not that I don’t strive everyday to live the lean principles, but am I doing it where other people can see?

By nature, I am an introvert and I don’t seek out approval.  What this means is when I am living the lean principles well, I don’t show others.

Jamie even mentioned this feels like bragging and showing off which is exactly how I felt.  But, it isn’t.  It is leading and teaching others that it can be done.  It has to been known.

Will I make mistakes.  ABSOLUTELY!  Part of the teaching is showing that I have made a mistake and learned from it because we aren’t perfect.

So I ask you, are you a teacher only inside the classroom or are you a teach outside the classroom as well?

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Influencing Through Role Modeling

For the last couple of weeks I have debated whether I should write this post or not.  I feel the topic of role modeling is important but writing about myself in this manner seems arrogant.  The topic won out and I decided to write the post.  Please understand my intent is to illustrate how role modeling can influence people, not brag or pat myself on my back.

Over the last few months, I have posted blogs about my own continuous improvement that have been inspired by others.  Some of the topics have been reflection, stand-up desk, and personal kanban (here and here).  I tried some of these things out to improve and change my work.  I didn’t realize it at the time but I was role modeling behaviors of continuous improvement that others at work were noticing.

People started asking me about things I was trying out.  It wasn’t long before I noticed a couple of more people with stand-up desks.  Then others with personal kanban boards being tried.  Lastly, seeing others doing more reflection at the end of meetings or at the end of the week.

It felt good to see others trying new things because of what they saw me doing.  My intent wasn’t to change others but to improve my own work.  As I did, others picked up on it little by little and started trying some of the same things.

It re-enforced the need to always be aware of my actions because you never know who is watching and will pick up on them.  As leaders, we want to send the right message.

Jim Womack Stepping Down

I know this post is a few days behind, but the news is big enough to warrant posts for several weeks.  Jim Womack is stepping down as the CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI).    Mr. Womack was the founder of LEI in 1997 and a integral part of bringing lean to the fore front in the United States.  Without Mr. Womack, who knows where the U.S. would be in regards to understanding lean thinking.  He has had such a enormous impact on lean thinkers.

Mark Graban posted about the announcement over at the Lean Blog last week.  I want to look at it from a different lens.

I am glad to see the change.  Not because I think Mr. Womack is “past his prime” or lean has “passed him bye” as you hear with coaches in sports or people in business.  I am glad to see him role modeling leadership traits that he has helped us come to understand.

The first is succession planning.  It wasn’t a hap-hazard plan that he was going to step down and now who to we put in his place.  “Oh look John Shook is here lets have him takeover.”   It was a two year process where Mr. Womack and Mr. Shook worked closely together, assuming so Mr. Shook could learn the ins and outs of LEI and “The LEI Way.”

The second trait Mr. Womack is role modeling is one you don’t see much from very top leadership.  Humbleness.  Mr. Womack sees it is time for change and understands that Mr. Shook can bring in the right change.  Not scrap everything and start over change like you see in a lot of traditional leaders, but understand “The LEI Way” and improve upon it type of change.  Too often you will see top leaders stay at the top until everything crumbles around them, then points fingers, and gets forced out.  Mr. Womack sees it is time to step down even when things are going well for LEI, expansion into health care is a good example, because it is best for LEI.

I wish Jim Womack all the best and I thank him for pushing all of our thinking to the limits.

I also look forward to the future of LEI and what John Shook will bring to the table.

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