An important thing that the Lean community must come to grips with is what senior leaders of companies will and, more importantly, will not do. This applies to organizations of any size, but especially large companies.

After nearly 30 years, we have a lot of empirical evidence on what senior leaders will not do when it comes to Lean leadership and Lean management.

The facts are that mostĀ senior leaders will not:

  • Change their behaviors
  • Change their ways of thinking
  • Develop new competencies
  • Take a martial arts approach to practicing Lean management (this includes katas and other disciplined activities such as PDCA).
  • Participate in kaizen
  • Teach or coach
  • Go on gemba walks
  • Observe what is happening on the gemba
  • Correct out-of-standard conditions
  • Perform root cause analysis for management problems
  • Commit to no layoffs due to kaizen
  • Have the patience to create a Lean enterprise

What, then, becomes of the Lean movement, if it is true that Lean must be led?

6 Responses to What Leaders Won’t Do

  1. Tom Hussey says:

    Hmmm, interesting. To summarize, I think you’re saying that it’s not enough to just manage a lean program, it also must be led from the top.

  2. Todd McCann says:

    Hello Bob,

    So based on your data, what is the ratio of those who will change vs those who will not change? The word most indicates not all. Could you please support your claim with more data.


    • Bob Emiliani says:

      What is the ratio? I don’t know. “Most” means most. The data is in the various surveys that appear periodically which indicate most organizations report great difficulty with Lean transformation. Few are able to keep it going over the long term. As former Toyota president Fujio Cho once said: “Our way of thinking is difficulty to copy or even to understand.”

  3. John Dennis says:

    Professor Bob, Your points are very valid. The fact is that the more comfortable that Senior Managers and Execs become, the less likely they are to embrace change. If they are fat and happy and their salaries, bonuses and pension schemes are very attractive as long as they maintain the status-quo …then what is motivating them to risk making a change ? It is often only when competitive forces mean that a company is about to go ‘under’ that execs get serious about Lean transformation. What is needed is Boards of Directors linking executive rewards on meaningful KPIs that are indicative of long term Lean Six Sigma improvement…such as Inventory Turns increasing, Warranty cost decreasing and Scrap cost decreasing.

  4. Jeff Morrow says:

    That fine list likely covers all the important things they need to do and yet don’t.
    “So, why?” Tom asked quintessentially.

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