A recurring conversations that I have with many people pertains to how profoundly disappointed they are with their leaders because they are not progressive and lack interest in Lean management. They struggle to convince senior managers to embrace Lean and wish they had a boss like Art Byrne, who, through daily practice, learned how to become a highly capable Lean leader. Others wish they were higher in the organization so that they could do what their bosses don’t want to do. Wishing is waiting. And wishing is self-limiting.
We all know that Lean must be led, but you must also take on the challenge do what you can, the best that you can, in whatever job you do.
When I worked in manufacturing, I was fortune to learn Lean from a leader who was very similar to Art Byrne. But my next boss had no knowledge of Lean didn’t care much about it. Despite that, I continued to learn about Lean and apply its principles and practices as best I could to my work as a supply chain manager. If, over the last 15 years, I waited for my university president to “get it,” I would have done little to improve my teaching. Instead, I moved forward and applied Lean principles and practices to teaching and created an entirely new teaching pedagogy.
Unfortunately, most leaders will never “get it.” That’s a fact. Even if they do, leaders can be like politicians and suddenly change directions as the wind blows. Their commitment to Lean will rise or fall to suit personal needs. Knowing this, you should devote yourself to learning Lean principles and practices and applying them every day as best you can.
It is helpful to think like a serious musician or golfer. They know they have to practice every day and perform in whatever venues that are available to them to build up their knowledge, skills, and capabilities over time so that they are prepared for the day when they make it to the big stage. Likewise, you should practice Lean every day to do good now and to build up your knowledge, skills, and capabilities to do even more should you rise into positions of greater responsibility.
You may have to hide a lot of what you do from your boss who does not “get it.” Improvement without recognition or fanfare is improvement nonetheless.