Back to blog
Written by Romain Condaminas

(Re)Becoming a Lean Manager

Where are our managers? What are they doing in their offices? Why is my supervisor never around when I need him?

All these questions may be familiar to you since we often hear them on production work floors, in warehouses, logistic platforms, call centers and other workplaces.

Profile of Today’s Manager

Today’s manager is in top physical shape: he runs about, and he runs fast! Always between meetings, fighting fires on the work floor, sending over reports...

He expects members on his team to do the same—which is meant in the best interest of the client and the company—, but ends up forgetting a few key aspects: taking care of the process, the team, and, therefore, the client.

When we ask managers to describe their role in one sentence, the most common answer sounds like “I manage a group of people,” “I manage personnel,” or “I coordinate teams.” Is this also how you feel about this role?

According to Createch, the role of a manager is to observe, to listen and to coach. Identifying waste sources and opportunities for improvement, listening to problems raised by team members, and, most importantly, coaching teams so that they address these problems and eliminate them at the source.

The only place where you can do these three things simultaneously is Gemba (no, it’s not your office). This Japanese term well known in Lean management literature means “the actual place,” or where work is done.

At the rate at which operations are executed, and, what’s more, in the globalization and pandemic-driven context we’ve lived in (or in which we still live), it is getting more and more difficult to undertake a cultural shift, and to move managers from their office to Gemba.

They say it takes 21 days to change a habit. Imagine what it takes for an entire corporate culture. It’s huge.

Proper guidance in the implementation of a robust daily management system (DMS) will help you make this complex shift at your own pace, based on the maturity level of your company, and your ability to introduce the necessary structural changes.

New call-to-action

Learning to Observe

It is often claimed that the simple fact of walking the work floor honours the manager who does it. The well-known morning walk across the facility. Or evening walk. Or both?

The common mistake is to think that a regular managerial presence in the field boosts labour productivity in the long run. Unfortunately, such presence only proves beneficial in the short term. Here’s why.

We naturally focus our view on where our values and experiences led us. By acknowledging that productivity can only be sought through human work, we miss out on all the rest. If the operator sees his manager go by, he will focus on what he has to do, and will not waste time elsewhere. But does he have all the tools (process or technology) to help him improve and reach his full potential? We’ll let you be the judge.

The act of being present is a good start since, as we mentioned, many teams regret failing to observe their managers in the field. But learning to properly observe what happens out there is a skill that can be acquired.

Lean management actually relies on managers to be available and able.

Able to identify and understand the different types of flows, what can hinder these flows, and their variations. Able to identify the added value that stems from the elimination of the seven main wastes: transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, overprocessing, defects. Able to recognize a bottleneck and distinguish it from a constraint. Able to manage performance.

This understanding of the value flow allows the manager to better spend his time in the field, offering him the flexibility to go from emergency mode to problem-solving mode.

The expert consultants at Createch can offer your managers the means to master these key concepts in order for them to observe everything that happens on your work floor.

Thanks to the Damasix DMS developed by Createch over the past decade, your managers will be able to monitor processes, making sure they observe everything and don’t miss out on anything.

Learn to observe. Observe to understand. Understand to improve. These three steps will help you (re)become a (Lean) performance manager.

Gemba Walk_Learning to Observe_(RE)BECOMING A LEAN MANAGER_Createch

From supervisor to manager: taking flight right

Front-line management should be the first milestone on the career path of managers. We often reach it by displaying a strong will to become a leader, and a thorough knowledge of business processes.

And so, one starts by supervising a small work floor team, and then grows and matures to become the manager of an important department. Well... That’s not exactly true!

This empty promise is somewhat misleading. There is a big jump to take to even pretend to be able to climb the management ladder efficiently. It boils down to the ability to go from supervisor to manager without changing titles or being promoted.

Supervisors of various types and backgrounds can be found at the same hierarchical level, and they will form your company to be a whole different company.

The most common differences observed are:

  • Priority management. The supervisor agrees to every request. The manager knows when to say no. He knows how to explain things and convince people.
  • Time management. The supervisor doesn’t keep track of his hours to deliver the product or service on time to the client. The manager sets out a daily, weekly or monthly action plan, and makes all reasonable efforts to fulfill that plan within the set deadlines.
  • Labour management. The supervisor uses a directive approach with his team. The manager guides, coaches and mobilizes team members so that they act autonomously when faced with problems..
  • Vertical management. The supervisor praises top-down decision making. The manager works in both directions vertically, and cross-functionally, hand in hand with the support services of the company.
  • Emotion management. The supervisor expresses his disagreement with executives before his team to maintain good relationships. The manager protects the company by using bottom-up, top-down, and cross-functional dialog.

The Abilities You Should Develop in Your Supervisors

  • The ability to lead: Lead the way, inspire, pull the organization up by implementing rigorous daily management.
  • The ability to improve: Do not assign continuous improvement tasks (e. g., quality assurance) to support services. Understand that you have the means and knowledge to set in motion the company, the business and the performance indicators.
  • The ability to transform: Foster change, in a bold manner, first within your own department (clean your backyard first), then in other departments, and modernize the company by changing the mindsets around.

At Createch, we can coach your supervisors, making them true managers who will improve your organization, and grow both personally and professionally. We work with experienced consultants who have taken on management roles, and climbed the corporate ladder in large companies. They can guide your male and female leaders, and pull the entire organization up.

Your field supervisors are your most valuable officials. They are in direct contact with your manual workers, the wage earners who design, produce and store your products before delivering them to your clients. They are directly tied to value-added activities.

You should take proper care of them, and provide them with the tools that will allow them to develop their skills and leave trace of their activity within your team. This will help your company to grow.

Do you want to propel your supervisors to the stars, and become tomorrow’s performance managers? Book a meeting with one of our consultants to discuss your needs.

The Abilities You Should Develop in Your Supervisors_Learning to Observe_(RE)BECOMING A LEAN MANAGER_Createch

These Articles Could Also Interest You