Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement

Do You Have What it Takes to Lead Continuous Improvement Teams?”

As a judge recently at the Share Showcase 2018 competition organized by High Performance Solutions, I was reminded as I listened to 12 high powered teams present their projects, that there are some very common characteristics of both the projects and the leaders of the teams.  In the last post “Do Your Continuous Improvement Teams Have What it Takes to Win?”  we reviewed what makes a successful continuous improvement (CI) team.  Here in this post, we’ll review what characteristics of the senior leaders of these teams had in common.

The characteristics that really stood out are:

Passion – Super high passion around CI and their teams.  Fully believe in their teams and the CI methodology.

Empowerment – Empower their teams to solve problems, be creative and innovate.  They let the teams figure it out.  They don’t get in the way. 

Coaching/Mentoring – They are coaches and mentors to the CI team members rather than their boss or manager.  They guide and give advice, they don’t tell the team what to do or how to do it.  They let the team fail.

Obstacle/Barrier Removers – See that their role is to remove obstacles or barriers that prevent the CI teams from achieving their goals or targets.  Provide additional resources and obtain necessary approvals.

Supportive –  Provide positive re-enforcement and encouragement to the team along the way.  Push them beyond what they think they can achieve.  Pick the team up after failure.  Encourage them to keep trying.  Help them to succeed.

Patient – Give the team time to learn, explore, succeed, and fail.  This doesn’t mean that there are not timelines and targets the teams need to achieve!  However, they are patient in letting the team figure out the best options and solutions even when they know the answer.

Recognition – Provide recognition to the team and the individual members both internally and externally for their achievements and learnings.  They don’t take credit themselves, but rather give it wholeheartedly to the team and its team members.   They are proud of their teams and the accomplishments and they show it! 

Celebrate – They ensure that successes and milestones, in addition to final results and achievements, are fully celebrated with the team.  Celebrations do not have to be huge and cost a lot of money, but rather provide opportunities for the team to share in their success as a team and as a company.

We either succeed or fail as a team!

The GM of the Centerline team, which won 1st place in the Share Showcase, commented that they bought pizza for the entire plant when the one team representing just one line achieved their target because he wanted to recognize and celebrate the contributions that everyone in the plant made to this team achieving their goal.  After all, he said, everyone supported in some manner by loaning labour or resources at some point or another.  He went on to say that the plant either succeeds or fails as a team.


Leave a comment:  What other common characteristics of the leaders of successful CI team do you see?


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