On December 8th, 2014, the first of four webinars by Mr. Michael Ballé started. It was hosted by the Lean Leadership Institute. Here’s my impression.
All participants were asked to logon about 15 minutes prior to the actual start time for set up purposes. In this way, everyone can check there connection and audio and video settings. Although it is 15 minutes of waiting time when your computer settings are okay, I understand the need to check them. After all, not everybody lives in an area where a broadband internet connection is considered ‘normal’.
The webinar itself was lead by Mr. Michael Ballé, author of several books and business novels amongst which The Gold Mine, The Lean Manager and Lead with respect. Three novels which I have truly enjoyed. The books are easy to read and cover several struggles of learning to face problems and to use the tools to ask the right questions.
After Mr. Ballé introduced himself to the attendees, he talked about how lean leaders (specifically CEO’s, for they are the captains of the ship) are to develop themselves before developing others. As I understand it: if the leader is not developing himself to become a lean leader, it is near to impossible to start a proper lean transition and to maintain the new culture. It just isn’t sustainable, for the whim of any CEO can drive a company away from the culture of continuous improvement.
He had a really fine quote by Mr. Jeffrey Liker:
To develop others, you first have to develop yourself.
This is so true, and so hard to achieve at the same time.
The next topic was a presentation and explanation of the steps for CEO’s to become a lean CEO. The summary was: don’t deny problems or solve them yourself, but realize they exist and empower your employees to find and solve them, each on their own level. In this culture, quality and productivity will rise without rise of working hours and / or costs.
The distinction between Taylorean management and lean management was described as: In Taylorean management, the processes are never the problem but the people are. In lean management, the people are (almost) never the problem, the processes are. These two sentences explain it all, I think. For people are able to ‘love’ the product or service and the customer, processes are not able to do that.
Also, lean leader practices were given, including an extensive explanation about how and especially why. Some of the highlights for me:
- There can be no Kaizen without Kanban, and that Kanban is deceptively hard to learn.
- Kanban is one of the finest tools in service environments, where workload and inventory is hard to see. Kanban can make it visible in an easy-to-see-and-understand way.
- 5S is not specifically meant for cleaning the workspace and maintaining it, but to give the operator a method to autonomously organize his (or her) own workplace. This was a real eye opener.
Of course, these were not the only practices, they just stood out for me.
The webinar ended with the importance to see the whole picture of the company’s structure and to understand who are involved instead of focusing on the operators and / or the CEO only. This is a trap consultants and newly appointed lean agents / coaches tend to fall into.
After the presentation, there was time to ask questions. This was the time for two more eye openers for me, for I had two questions:
- Is it possible to start lean from the floor instead from the top? The answer to this question was insightful, however not surprising after following this webinar: do not ‘lean’ to others, but start with yourself.
- Aren’t most people focused too much on the use of the tools instead of practicing the lean philosophy? The answer to this question did surprise me: lean is about using the tools to ask the right questions. This is something I did not expect. In my mind, you had to focus on the lean mindset (the philosophy) and use the tools accordingly, instead of using the tools to create the lean mindset. Mr. Ballé told me more about this, which I need to ponder over before my writing turns into a mindless babble.
This was only the first of four, and it gave me a lot to think about already. Mr. Ballé is very approachable and his story just… flows. If you are interested in lean, I would highly recommend these series. Isn’t there any con? Of course, improvement can be found everywhere if you know where to look. At this moment, I haven’t found any. I cannot wait until the next webinar.