Categories : Lean Manufacturing Principles


How Leadership and Management Influences The Development of a Lean Culture.

lean culture

Lean Culture

If an organization embarks on the development of a lean culture, it requires dedicated leadership and management abilities. A paradigm shift in organizational thinking, procedures and values through the assimilation of a lean philosophy and principles into the business processes.

What is the difference between leadership and management? Understanding the difference between these two critical is very important. Often, people see no difference between them and use both words interchangeably. However after a deeper investigation we find there is a difference between both of these terms.

  • Leadership is the ability to define a vision or direction for a group and to establish the principles for them to follow.
  • Management is a technique for controlling or directing all available people, equipment, money, etc. to comply with established principles.

There are three key principles that lean leadership must establish to allow a to do their job efficiently and effectively:

  • To develop clear business goals and objectives to identify the direction of the organization.
  • To make available all necessary resources to meet these goals and objectives i.e. time, training, equipment, etc.
  • To remove any organizational barriers that may obstruct the successful completion of these goals and objectives.

Creating a Lean Culture:

If these principles are not implemented, management and employees alike will be doomed to failure. Leadership has to support its workforce for them to be successful. A lack of leadership commitment will drive them towards frustration and failure. A Lean Culture can only develop when there is commitment and a demonstration of the implementation of practices towards becoming a . Workers will follow their leadership to lead by example. This means establishing face to face contact with the workforce and not through an executive memo or email.

Driving change in any organization requires a relationship between leadership and management. We can better understand the different types of relationships by studying the Leadership/Management Dilemma Model. The Leadership/Management Dilemma Model was developed by Phillip Kotler. It was used to determine the availability of people with leadership talent and their relative fit within the organization. The model is a grid, and the quadrants are created by defining a weak or strong rating for each of the leadership and management axes.

Lean Culture Book:

In Lean Leadership…A Model for the New Millennium Part 8 – Patrick Lucansky, Robert Burke and Larissa Potapchuk stated the following about the Leadership/Management Dilemma Model.

In review of quadrant 2 (Strong Leaders but Weak Managers) and quadrant 3 (Strong Managers but Weak Leaders), studies show that organizations contain far too many people with quadrant 3 traits. This is evident as bureaucracy and over-specialization has overrun most organizational processes. In these organizations, ‘more’ is the order of the day, more policies and procedures, while numerous controls stifle innovation. Conversely, those surveyed also stated that they had too few people who fell into quadrant 2. Unfortunately, quadrant 2 people tend to find that their vision is detached from reality and often times is out of alignment with the organization, while their strategies lack the support of formal planning or budgeting. Far less noteworthy, quadrant 1 (Weak Manager and Weak Leaders) inhabitants were found to be in excess but rarely in position to damage growth.

Respondents stated that quadrant 4 (Strong Manager and Strong Leader) were a rare breed, in short supply, and considered to be the “true” leader types. Add to these findings the fact that companies spend millions of dollars on identification models and training programs, and the overall message is that the corporate world has a deficit of good leaders and lacks the systems to develop leadership and provide the right culture for the exhibition of sound leadership skills. Read the rest of this interesting article at

Creating a Lean Culture Summary:

This explanation demonstrates the real impact on any organization based on the strength or weakness of its leadership versus management. Leadership without management lacks the ability to control and effectively allocate resources to meet the business goals and objectives. On the other hand, an organization that has management without leadership will preserve a “business as usual” approach to make certain the no one changes the accepted procedures. This methodology is often the result of a tribal culture that exists as a result of controlled or limited cooperation between internal groups or departments.

The key trait that differentiates a successful lean enterprise from an organization that failed to implement lean and sustain is their interpretation about how to deal with problems.

The leadership and management teams in a successful lean enterprise have a clear understanding that problems are a gift in the form of opportunities for improvement. A problem is the way a system gives feedback saying that it can’t deliver the expected results. A good management team will demonstrate to their employees the methods used to find the root cause of the problem and how to eliminate it. An organization that failed to implement lean has leadership and management teams that view operational problems as a necessary evil and a way of life when doing business. Time after time, they see their systemic problems as the result of doing business and nothing more than that. They do not educate and empower their employees to use problem solving tools to recognize and analyze the root cause of the problem.

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