Lean Facilitators are Countermeasures

What is the role of your lean facilitator?

This question comes up now and again, was recently posed on the LEI forums by someone looking for help with a job description.

I extrapolated from his question that he was looking to the job description as a line of defense against dilution of the facilitator’s focus and effort by projects that might not be going in the appropriate direction.

In effect, this is putting the lean facilitator in the role of a weakened zampolit with the role of educating the “correct view” and challenging decisions that run counter to it. Except that more often he has to sell the “correct view” rather than impose it.

The fact that the question is being asked at all indicates that the organization has not really thought through what their operational vision is. How will the company work, what are the responsibilities and roles of the leaders?

What are the leaders’ job descriptions in this new world?

Those job descriptions become a target condition for each of them.

What is the gap?

If there are gaps in skills and knowledge, then we need countermeasures.

At this point, the role and responsibility of a lean facilitator might begin to emerge as one of those countermeasures. Don’t have the expertise? Import it.

What doesn’t work, though, is to use the lean facilitator to substitute for the leader’s full and direct participation in the process of improvement. And no job description, no matter how carefully crafted, can fix that.

11 thoughts to “Lean Facilitators are Countermeasures”

  1. Company Owner: “We are going to implement Lean manufacturing here at the plant. I want to see some changes around here.”
    “That means change for everyone. From the Janitors all the way to the Foremen and the Plant Manager”.

  2. I intuitively believe you’re ever so right. But if the manager (or owner) doesn’t come to the Gemba it’s bottom up action, isn’t it? I’ve seen those countermeasuring facilitators in action and thanks to them top management is slowly but surely being convinced….

    1. I agree.
      “What you can, where you can” is the underlying mantra for a day to day practitioner.

      Of course, if the manager never comes to the gemba, then a lot can get done before anyone can stop you. 😉
      That “leader” is essentially abdicating leadership to whoever is actually on the scene.
      I don’t need someone to say “Yes”
      I just need nobody to say “No.”

      But the vast majority of lean transformations fail, and most of the rest stall, when the practitioners are spending all of their time repairing erosion rather than taking the organization to the next level.

  3. Great post Mark! Facilitating lean in absence of leaders who practice lean is a waste. Any gains will slip back to current condition if lean is delegated to a facilitator.

  4. I think it all depends on how much entropy there is. The more complex the organization the less impact a facilitator can have without significant leadership. The smaller the pool the more effective a good lean infection (i.e. the facilitator) can be. When the pool gets bigger it takes consistent pollution over time in order to get the environment to a point of stasis in which the infection takes hold. That type of consistency does not come from the infection itself. It has to come from leadership that is continuously incubating the infection.

  5. Thanx Mark, for you very accurate assessment of what I felt but couldn’t put my finger on. I also feel relieved because just this week the first shimmers of top managements’ involvement in our Lean efforts are starting to shine, right before the point where we threatened to stall…..

  6. So what does a lean manager do? How do we get complete buy in from all and get everyone involved – top managers down to the floor? We have local managers giving direction to ‘do lean’, which comes from their upper managers, telling them to ‘do lean’. Would education for all be helpful in getting all to understand what truly is involved in creating a successful program that sustains on its own? I am not sure what the answer is….

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