Lean Leader's Standard Work (a Checklist)

Many are captivated by the purported results of a work culture continuously focused on improvement, be that called Lean or otherwise. In truth, if you as a leader or manager do nothing to improve the system of work entrusted to you, day after day, week after week and month after month, then you and your business unit will inevitably fall years behind your peers and your competition. Eventually, you will never be able to catch up.  But what to do? 

In the previous sections I have addressed the various roles and responsibilities that drive and support Deming-style management and a Lean enterprise. As a leader/manager you might consider the following checklist items as your challenges and pathway to success before any of your direct reports or employees can effectively make use of the many principles and tools of work and process improvement, let alone reach a level of an entire workforce striving daily toward continuous improvement. There is much prep work to be done by leaders and managers before they can achieve the power of Lean beyond the application of tools. As the saying goes, to the man equipped with only a saw, everything looks like a piece of wood. So, here is the guide I have followed:

Lean Leader's Checklist

  • Set Lean leadership and management expectation for all leaders
  • Set high performance expectation goals & pace of continual change
  • Integrate people, process, tools, technology that support the new manner of work
  • Engage & empower your people to solve problems
  • Create organizational structure with readily identified team leaders to allow continuous change to happen
  • Form core teams with strong leader and team members along the path of workflow
  • Breakdown barriers between artificial silos of control so improvements can occur horizontally
  • Foster regular communication within and between workstations within your control as well as outside your department (customer-supplier relationships)
  • Drive reduction in variability by standardizing the work activities, connections and pathways
  • Implement visual management, with posted daily metrics of value for each work unit reflecting opportunities for change or stability of process
  • Stabilize processes through a continuous focus on waste reduction
  • Move to continuous flow, innovate triggers to 'pull' work or patients etc,
  • Identify opportunities for front loading and work simplification
  • Continually push to reduce time waste
  • Leverage PDCA as a way of thinking and the operational engine of continual improvement
  • Create structure and incentives to sustain the new cultural change of work
  • Make this new approach to work fun!
  • Celebrate your teams' successes and learnings
  • Educate to improve the overall quality and efficiency of work for the system, not for any one unit
  • Create opportunities for your direct reports to work effectively together and manage horizontally for the greater good. Somebody gives, somebody takes, but everyone wins.
  • Creating a functional Lean enterprise is a long journey of many years duration. Lean is clearly a combination of top-down leadership integrated with bottom-up employee engagement.

There is no doubt that we will all face significant change and many challenges yet in healthcare, many unforeseen. Don't you think it best to get started now to create your functional teams that can maximize operations across existing silos of control before you become irrelevant?

Your leadership role is key to your Lean success and that of your business. So, as you can see-