Leadership and Respect

Employee engagement and empowerment, which are cornerstones of a lean strategy, are finally beginning to get the recognition they deserve.

            My comment is prompted by a forecast from consulting firm BlessingWhite, which says that leadership priorities will change next year. (And my thanks go to Skip Reardon, for being the first to describe the report in his Be Excellent blog.)

            BlessingWhite projects that leaders will focus on seven key issues in 2007. Two in particular caught my eye.

            One is Driving Productivity Through Engagement. According to the BlessingWhite news release, “Employee engagement will continue to be a pressing concern, and those responsible for leading will need to pay close attention to not only the level of employee satisfaction but also the degree of contribution.”

            In contrast to the traditional manufacturing practice of treating employees as unthinking cogs, lean has always been based on the belief that employees can and should contribute. This includes the concepts of cross-functional teams with the authority to make improvements, encouraging employees to stop production when a problem is found, soliciting employee suggestions, and so on. And when BlessingWhite talks about paying attention to the degree of contribution, the firm is echoing the lean concept of measuring what you do with the right kinds of metrics.

            The other issue the firm mentions that struck a chord was Connecting Individual Contribution to Strategy: “There is a lingering gap between employees knowing their organization’s business strategy and recognizing their own role in it. Closing that gap will help improve engagement, productivity and profitability.”

            Indeed it will. And in recognition of that, lean includes the concept of hoshin kanri, which involves development strategic objectives and relating them to strategy and tactics at all levels of an organization. (Read our book, Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise by Tom Jackson for more information.)

            The five other issues that BlessingWhite says leaders will face next year are:

  • Executive Self-Development
  • Correcting Cultural Corruption
  • Re-emerging Focus on Retention
  • Inspiring All Generations
  • Developing Leaders for Short – and Long-Term – Needs


The BlessingWhite news release never mentions lean specifically. But taken as a whole, the seven issues seem to embody a central concept of lean: Respect for employees.

            I’m glad more people are jumping on this bandwagon. It’s about time.


Ralph Bernstein said...

12/18/2006 3:07:24 PM
Re: Leadership and Respect
By: catfish10721

Agree with all you said, but I think Employee engagement and employee empowerment have always been a part of Lean. It is really difficult to do Lean without engaged and empowered employees. The challenge ""is"" getting those invididuals supervision and leadership to allow the time for improvements. Many employees want to improve, but because improvement is not a priority to the organization they never get or find the time. Too often is lip service given at the highest levels, only to see nothing happening on the floor where it needs to be taking place. EI/EE is a great tool if embraced by leadership, if not, it makes Lean and all other improvement tools and methodologies become the flavor of the day.

Ralph Bernstein said...

12/21/2006 2:07:44 PM
not a bandwagon -- a life plan.
By: rawheiser

Of course they don't say Lean specifically - treating people as you would like to be treated yourself is more fundamental than just a component of any given management system (Lean, SixSigma, TQM, etc..).

Heck it's more universal even then the 'Christian' methodology, showing up everywhere as a human standard.

If you do good by others you prosper yourself.