Let’s make 2017 the year of leadership in manufacturing. Lean leaderhip.

When we started the magazine I ran editorial for ten years, one of the founders talked about how Lean and Six Sigma were so old that she hoped I wouldn’t write about it. That was in 2003. The topic of Lean thinking is as fresh and useful today as it was then.The good thing is that these are skills that can be learned.

Perhaps for the new year, we all evaluate our leadership and look for ways to elevate our effectiveness in 2017.

A few years ago, a publicist sent me a copy of “Anatomy of a Lean Leader”, by Jerry Bussell with Emily Adams. The book is organized around ten traits of a Lean Leader.

If you are not familiar with Lean, it is a proven effective way of thinking and leading manufacturing organizations. It’s core elements are continuous improvement and respect for people. I’ve included a brief description of the ten traits. Perhaps you can pick up some ideas for self-improvement this year.

Purposeful—this trait relates to having a strong, but brief, mission statement. An example from a medical organization: “Alleviate pain; restore health; extend life.” As Peter Drucker said, your mission statement should fit on the front of a T-shirt.

Respectful—a respectful leader is in service to the people.

Transparently honest—Bussell says, “I found that morals and principles were a source of strength in everyday behaviour.”

Influencer—to affect real, lasting change requires more subtlety and time—it needs influence. Influence means guiding people to finding the right answer on their own, so that the right path becomes their natural inclination.

Continuous Learner—the continuous learner asks questions and relies on observations to hone his or her understanding of the issues. A problem well-defined, I have learned, is a problem half-solved.

Persistence—persistence means showing up every day, ready to tackle problems afresh—even when your entire company seems outmoded.

Holistic Thinker—to think holistically is to think broadly about the implications of an action on the entire complex, interconnected organization. When Paul O’Neil was CEO of Alcoa, he made workplace safety a priority. Seems strange, but thinking holistically, he said, “If we bring our injury rates down, it will be because individuals at this company have agreed to become part of something important. They’ve devoted themselves to creating a habit of excellence.”

Problem Solver—take a methodical approach to problem solving. Define the problem clearly; investigate the current situation; list all the options, including the ideal; plan and implement a solution; and, check results.

Results-Driven—the modern CEO interested in changing her ways to become more results-driven must first look at the organization’s processes. The CEO must have confidence that the organization’s approach to problem solving and analysis is sound. Only then will she have confidence that her results will be reliable and foreseeable. The results-driven leader is also a holistic thinker, working through the process with care and consideration of the whole organization.

Courageous—courage is embracing change that is substantial, unafraid of failure, inclusive, respectful, honest, and persistent.

Make 2017 your year of leadership bringing your organization to growth and success.

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