“True Lean” Leadership – a tale of waste management, people and change

It’s incredibly rewarding when our Lean Leaders demonstrate by their actions that they really understand what improvement is all about. That they really “get it”. Yesterday I saw another great example of this at one of our clients – it’s what I call “True Lean” Leadership.

Chris was given the job of improving her plant’s environmental performance and achieving ISO14001 accreditation. She quickly identified waste management as the main priority. It caused lots of problems and cost a lot of money. She used “go see” – she tracked waste streams throughout the plant and she saw them all end up in the same skip / dumpster. Then she went and visited the company’s waste contractors. She took some of her colleagues. They watched as their waste skips were emptied out into the yard and a whole crew of people spent hours manually sorting the contents back into their different types. Waste in every sense of the word! Pretty clear that her colleagues needed to sort the waste streams at source and not mingle them all together.

Problem solved?

Of course not.


Because the changes meant getting people back at the plant to change the behaviours of a life-time.

So – she put together a presentation to explain to her co-workers why it was important, what they needed to do and – most importantly – what’s in it for them.

She presented this first to a whole room full of Lean experts during a best practice visit to another of our clients (who had just been shortlisted for the Factory of the Year Awards) – no pressure there!

She asked for comments and feedback.

She then acted on the feedback and changed her whole presentation.

Yesterday she showed her new presentation to her Plant Manager and me.

It was one of the simplest, clearest presentations I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen – and delivered – thousands over the years). Straightforward, hard-hitting and persuasive.

Next week she’s delivering her presentation to every employee in the plant.

And then a whole load of people from the Factory of the Year plant are going to visit and she’s going to show them how to do it!

I’ll leave you to identify how many examples of effective Lean implementation you can pick up on here. How much of Chris’s approach can you apply in your own improvement activities?

And finally, I’ll leave you with a challenge – if you were Chris’s boss, how would you recognise her efforts and how could you help her to help her colleagues change their behaviours?

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