Leader as Student and Teacher: A Preview Lesson From LeanCor’s Lean Leadership Academy
“There are three kinds of leaders. Those that tell you what to do. Those that allow you to do what you want. And lean leaders that come down to the work and help you figure it out.” – John Shook Learning is everyone’s job in a lean organization, and this includes you as a leader. To achieve optimal performance, it starts by setting the highest bar possible for yourself. Here are some tips you’ll learn in LeanCor’s Lean Leadership Academy online training course to lead by being both a student and teacher. Understand What You Need to Learn and Create a Personal Development Plan. We have observed a competency gap in many businesses – as a leader’s work becomes a larger and more important part of the business, he has less time to learn. Because learning is a foundational element of lean, you need to find the time and space to learn. The Lean Leadership Academy teaches to make learning part of your standard work and to stick to it. There is a Learning Opportunity in Any Situation: Be Willing to Learn. Through the Lean Leadership Academy, you will learn that learning also will take place every day if you are open to recognizing the learning opportunity in any situation and be willing to learn. Any time you interact with other people – whether upstream or downstream – there is an opportunity to learn. Some people have a natural sense of urgency to learn that is awakened by being encouraged to ask questions and seek solutions. If you have someone who is asking why all the time, feed that appetite. Challenge them by providing reading material and opportunities to gain additional hands-on knowledge. You are nurturing a future lean leader. Listen and Uncover the Problem Before Talking and Jumping to Solutions.
This is an absolutely critical point in the Lean Leadership Academy for two reasons:
First, traditional leadership has taught us to jump to solutions before completely understanding the problem. Instead, try to really understand the current state of the problem, the cause of the problem, and the right solution. It’s a lea
n principle that the right solution becomes evident when you truly understand the problem.
Second, learning is part of the lean foundation, and the most effective learning takes place during problem solving. Think about it – if you just give kids the solutions in school, they don’t learn. So why do we do that in the business world?
Embrace the Fact That People Learn By Doing.
Let’s take a look at the Core Lean Activities. When we read books, we gain insight into concepts and principles and even tactical road maps, but until we go out and do, our learning is not solidified. When we go out and do, we often find out what actually happens is not what we think is happening.
Make Problems Visible so People Can Learn by Solving Problems.
The challenge at a lot of organizations is that they don’t see their problems as preventable problems. They see them as unique aspects of their work, such as their industry, company or culture. But when we are honest with ourselves, we can’t deny that all businesses are broken and could be made better by fixing problems.
So how do you make problems visible? The Lean Leadership Academy teaches: first, recognize that problems can be hidden by many things, including inventory, spreadsheets, space, racking, and excessive movement.
Look for problems beyond these barriers by questioning how they are adding value. Undoubtedly, you’ll find an excess of shelving, stockpiled inventory, wasted movement, and reports that say nothing.
Help your team to get the barriers removed so that they can observe the situation, gather facts, think about how to fix the problem, and then implement the best solution.
Look for and Take Advantage of All Opportunities for Teaching.
You should not only be assessing your strengths and weaknesses, but also your team members. Sometimes this means taking a leap of faith and giving somebody a task that they’re not totally ready for. Match people with opportunities that will facilitate learning.
For example, if you have an opportunity, do you put in your most experienced root-cause-analysis team member or your least-experienced one? It may take longer and cause more momentary stress to put the weaker team member in, but you’re all about teaching, and doing this will give you information that you need to teach; i.e., what training the less-experienced team member needs. By the same token, if someone catches a quality problem, give lots of public praise. As the Lean Leadership Academy suggests, this is how a lean leader takes advantage of a teachable moment at the work site.
What if a student isn’t ready for the next lesson? This could be because they need more time to reflect and process the previous lesson. Assign them some homework in the form of questions for reflection and/or a go-to-the-work site task that requires deep observation. Then, allow them time to process what they learned before checking back in.
Lean Leadership: Building the Lean Culture – Online Course
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