All management strategies and paradigms, from old school to Lean, have one element that is the same. That element is people. People are not pawns on a game board, they are not machines and they don’t always follow management’s vision.
In fact, the people side of management is never clear cut, and is nearly always messy. Everyone has their motives for doing the the things they do. Not everyone has the same goals in mind.
Failure to address the human element will undermine any effort that management may take to change the culture in a business. The reason is that culture is all about the human element. You can’t dictate attitudes and motives, nor can you just ask for change.
Here is the secret. All change, all improvement, Lean or otherwise, must be lead. It is experienced together with others. Let me give you an example. Years ago, when hurricane Hugo came through South Carolina, I was managerially responsible for an industrial waste treatment facility. All retention ponds were filling and the plant could not keep up. The state had given me permission to by-pass the rain water directly to the river in order to keep other contaminated water contained. This required the re-routing of a 12 inch fiber cast pipe while the hurricane was in full swing. I had a staff of 5 technicians on duty that night. All had families in the storm’s path and all were worried.
This was a time for action, so I said what needed to be done, grabbed my tool bag, and headed out the door into the weather. I didn’t ask anyone else to go, but everyone followed me into the storm. We fought the weather for more than two hours and got the job done.
After that night, I had a minimum of 15 to 20 workers from around the company volunteering to work with me on a daily basis. We had a reputation for action and a “can do” attitude. In this case strong leadership resulted in strong follow ship. The culture began to change because the employees saw the management team change.
My point is this. If you want to change the culture in your work space, let the change begin with you. If you want to implement a Lean movement, let the change begin with you. Exercise strong leadership and you will get strong follow ship.
Strong follow ship leads to a shared vision. A shared vision leads to less resistance to change.
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