5 Lean Management Practices for your Team in the New Year

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Author Frank Geric

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So I wanted to start off the New Year with 5 practices for you to implement within your organization. As no two organizations are the same, I thought I would focus on something universal to all organizations: People.

With this in mind the following are a list of practices, which if you follow today, will serve you well in 2012 and beyond.


Everything that we do should begin with courtesy and respect. Be respectful of people’s knowledge and skill. This should be obvious, but apparently it is not. On a number of occasions I have heard managers refer to shop floor workers as “stupid”, “dumb” or “none-too-bright”. This attitude is not only present in their speech, but ever-present in their attitude when dealing with their frontline counterparts. Instead of being viewed as teammates, these individuals are derisively viewed as subordinates or inferiors.

Be quick to praise and slow to criticize. When errors are made, do not blame the individuals involved, fix the system that enabled the error to happen.


Value your people! The first thing people think of when they think of value is pay, but pay is a small component of value. A word of praise can be of immeasurable worth when it is heartfelt and sincere.

A co-worker’s father is a retired auto worker. He is in his late 70s and among his most prized possessions is a plaque that he received for a cost-cutting suggestion that he made in the early 1980’s. When I met him he showed it to me with great pride. He received the small plaque along with a check for $50. He remembers the exact amount and the day he received both.

Now I’m not suggesting that you start handing out plaques, but the carrot is truly mightier than the stick (please forgive me for misusing the phrase!).

Have you ever rewarded or thanked someone for a usable idea? You should. If someone takes the time to make a suggestion, they should be lauded for their effort and willingness to work on improving the system.

Do your best to promote from within – nothing is better for the esprit de corps of a company than viewing the possibility of moving up in the company.

Know Your People!

Henry Ford insisted that his supervisors know each of his men personally. The supervisor was expected to know each of their men , and at least have a sense of their home life. This was done so that the supervisor could look after the welfare of his men. A worker who is preoccupied with family concerns is likely to be inefficient at best, and a danger to himself and others at worst.

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – General Colin Powell

For this reason, Ford instituted one of the first family leave programs in the country.

The point is not about days off or knowing your worker’s favorite color, it’s about showing that you care for them.

Train and Educate!

One of the best ways to show that you respect and value your people is to invest in them; invest in them so that they can better their skills. Training and educating your employees allows them to increase their feeling of self-worth and value to the organization.
Training your people does not need to (necessarily) consist of formal education. While formal, classroom training has benefit, training could just as easily be teaching a new skill within the current environment.

If you are not working to help your employees achieve their aspirations, they will go work for someone who will.

Lead by Example!

This can be the most difficult. It’s easy to talk a good game, but much more difficult to ‘walk it like you talk it’. You can be certain people will notice what you do more than what you say. If your attitude is one of “let’s roll up the sleeves and get the job done!” you can be sure that this will inspire a similar attitude in others.

“You can’t lead from the rear!” Cmdr. Richard Marcinko,U.S.N. Ret. - Founder of SEAL Team 6

Become personally involved in lean and kaizen training and events. Lend support to events through an unwavering commitment to the principles of lean. Encourage the participation of team members and praise and reward them for their active participation.

The tenor of an organization is largely determined by the attitude and the behavior of its leader. As Edwards Deming so succinctly put it, “Management is responsible for 94% of the problems".

Following the first 4 points will go a long way toward fulfilling the 5th. If you place your emphasis on people as well as ‘the system’, you stand a much better chance of achieving success.

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