Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lean Leadership Lesson - No Whinging Allowed!

intr.v. whinged, whing·ing, whing·es - Chiefly British – To complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner.

I eliminated the opportunity to whinge about winter in the Chicago area by spending the month of February on Maui. Family and friends, who endured the fifth worst February winter in Chicago weather history, must have tired of my Facebook posts with photos of sunsets, beaches, whales, and Mai Tai cocktails. Because of my semi-retired status I can choose to get away from winter and did. Then when my month in the sun ended rather than fly home to Chicago I flew directly to Australia to facilitate Lean Safety events.
My workshops provide the attendees with lean leadership lessons about employee engagement and empowerment. Too often managers whinge, or complain, about their workforce. Leadership teams who have discredited Lean by using it as a cost savings program are whingers. They view their employees as expenses rather than assets. They sit in meetings and talk about ways to reduce their employment levels. Of course they would use the term “headcount reduction,” rather than staffing levels, because they treat their employees like sheep and cattle – directing them, controlling them and telling them what to do rather than engaging and empowering them to make a difference in the business. Because of these whinging managers lean has gotten a bad name in the world. My workshops help these dysfunctional mangers see the value of both their workforce and the philosophy called Lean.
They learn to engage their workforce in a unified pursuit of work process improvement simply by making work processes safer and easier. Using safety as the entry point for discussions and activities during the initial pursuit of Lean clears up the confusion about who benefits from Lean. Lean should benefit all stakeholders, not just the stockholders, for it is not a cost savings program. Lean is a manufacturing philosophy that focuses everyone on improving delivery to customers by identifying and banishing “waste” from all business processes. Lean is a trust building cultural change journey that is only possible if managers engage and empower their reports.

I receive feedback from workshop attendees via surveys and email messages. Here are some messages from recent workshop attendees who believe what I advocate is true.

• Wow, great session on integrating safety into lean culture and vice versa through engaging the employees.

• I was pleasantly surprised by how exceptionally applicable this workshop is to my organization and the role I play within my organization. I have a new found passion for lean safety and look forward to implementing what I have learned today at my organization.

• The attendees of this course have taken away an enormous amount of ideas for improvement and the involvement of staff at the workplace. Part of the learning was the benefits of combining safety and lean principles within the work environment, staff empowerment, and the positive effect this has on company growth. I would highly recommend Rob and the Lean Safety Workshop to any company wanting to take the next step in their lean journey.

• You are helping the world become a safer better place! Thanks heaps for all your time last week, learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed meeting and learning from you.

• Thank you again, I really enjoyed the course, I am putting the learnings into practice every day.
I start every workshop by noting that I want to change the world – or at least help the world understand you can get lean via employee engagement in safety improvement. A secondary goal is to help mangers become leaders of lean rather than whingers. I am succeeding at a slow pace.

Travel in the next few months will take me to Denver, Calgary and Milwaukee. If you reside there and would like to get together to take about lean leadership let me know. I will also be traveling to England to conduct a two workshop in June. One of them will be a public event at Brompton Bicycles outside of London. Let me know if you would like information on this or other events.

If you wish to purchase either of my books, Lean Safety or Lean Safety Gemba Walks, the publisher has offered a 20% discount and free shipping if you use the following code when ordering on their website. Code AVPO at

Stay safe!