I recently started with a new division and one of the first things I tried to do was to resuscitate the lean steering committee. It was important that leadership was united with a common strategy and message. I think the key purposes of a lean steering committee – at least in a manufacturing environment – are as follows:
- Develop site lean vision and continuous improvement plan
- Prioritize and schedule projects based on CI plan and available resources – add any new projects based on input from steering committee members
- Create a culture of continuous improvement by demonstrating and practicing the core leadership skills like coaching and recognition
- Share best practices from across the site, across different sites and across the lean community
- Leadership Go-See to keep momentum on open projects and to sustain completed projects
I’d like to chat a bit more about the last bullet – the leadership go-see. I’m talking more about leaderships role is driving and sustaining larger, macro level projects versus a cell level Kamishibai. Before I get into it – let’s take a look at this Dilbert cartoon.
I love Dilbert and like so many of Scott Adams’ cartoons, this one rings incredibly true. It’s hard for managers like Dilbert’s pointy haired boss to ever hear the real truth about how a project is going. Project leaders will admit their struggles to everyone else – but once their boss comes asking, everything is peachy. One of the purposes of the site steering committee go-see is to create trust between project owners and leadership. It’s about asking questions that are open and don’t have a binary yes/no answer. An example of a closed question would be “is the team action list up to date?”. While this is important, it doesn’t really help the project leader. This might be the type of question the project leader’s boss asks because it’s his/her job to hold the leader responsible for executing. The goal of the SSC coach is ultimately to promote open discussion and remove obstacles. A better question for the coach might be “what tools does the team use to ensure the team is on track?”. This would keep the project leader out of defensive mode and create more of a two-way conversation.
At sites where leadership go-see has been implemented, I’ve had good feedback from both the coaches and project leaders. Coaches can’t be assigned to coach project leaders that work directly for them. This makes the project leaders feel a bit more comfortable right away. This also means the coach is a fresh set of eyes to the process.
Have you tried implementing leadership go-see through a Lean Steering Committee? What problems did you run into? How did it help?