Lean Manager – The Sandwich Position in an Organization

文章类别:制造智慧 |电子期刊号: 2010年第4期 总第16期

Lean manager, is an honor position in the organization, some classify it as the GM assistant, since he or she has the power to give order to entire organization for continuous improvement activities. Sound is attractive but what the fact is all the bitter and hardship swallowed. This article is to address the countermeasure for success Lean manager if he/she had to face the little Lean knowledgeable boss or factory GM.

Listen; here are some of the facts for Lean Manager’s dilemma.

“The buddy GM wants me to give my annual review of operational target. Shit! How can I commit to the operational target whereby I have only 1 commander without soldiers? ”

“Whenever I was approaching them for timing the cycle time I quickly found out that their motion suddenly become slows, like the slow motion movie.”

“5S is excellence! Visual Management is excellence! White board even better! 2 months later, the GM found that the visual board with 2 months old materials displayed…..”

“The calculation cycle time and upon the takt time study we save 2 men, excellence! Wait a minute, after all, I had being told that they cannot meet the schedule output, ending out we gave 2 men back.”

“Standardization is a key for Kaizen continuously, then standard worksheet displayed and couple months later the papers were found sitting in re-cycle tray.”

“Kaizen week is great; a week workshop had established the U-shape cell and after the presentation to management, Japanese Sensei applauded, “good job!!” and the next following week, the only straight line cell being seen at shop floor”“改善周是很好的。一周的专题研讨会已经建立了U型细胞单元,在向管理层介绍时,日本的老师称赞我们说,‘做得好!!’而在紧接着的一周中,只有笔直的生产线能在车间工厂中被看到。”

“We need to start the TPM; we should set-up the TPM model line. Lean activities? OK, agreed, let do it. The result is the Model TPM line’s machine without running for months…..”

OK, after all the difficulties faced, the worse is when the GM declared that’s no improvement at shop floor, all are lies. Then the only way out for Lean Manager is, cut him/her off from the organization and a new one will repeat the same story again.

Basically Lean managers are hired with some reasons. Head-quarter has started the Lean initiative and requires all Asia branches should follow the same practices. Company would like to increase the value from customer prospective, Lean initiative is one of them. The new GM found the facility wastes everywhere and would like to improve it.

The Lean Manager is hired with purpose but instead of the good show, they turn out to be the other way round. The intelligent of utilization of Lean Manager is became the point that should given more attentions but oddly the market today is not in this practice usually even you are hardly found similarity materials in any Lean books.

The Lean knowledgeable GM is always understood how to optimize the Lean Manager that under his/her supervision. Basically the Lean Manager’s responsibilities are:

  1. Advise or assist GM to establish the Hoshin (Strategy Deployment) plan for the entire organization
  2. Give Lean education to entire organization
  1. Act as the internal consultant for improvement ideas to entire organization


  1. Facilitator for any Kaizen Workshop


  1. Audit shop floor management that includes Standard Work, 5S and Visual Management and give necessary advices to the organization if needed.


Consequence, there are some that shouldn’t belong to Lean Manager:

  1. Responsible to operational metrics


  1. Responsible to shop floor management results


  1. Responsible to initial the Kaizen activities


The major challenges since then for Lean Manager are to communicate effectively not only for GM alone but to entire organization about the Hoshin plan that will be created and ensure every employee is in line with the move, and support the plan.

The question here now is how to set-up the effective Lean Hoshin Plan? If you are closed with my previous blog then you should know about 4 phases of Lean deployment strategy (please refer to my previous blog, “Lean Sigma Advantages and Deployment Roadmap”).

In Lean Kick-off phase, the first step Lean manager should do is to study the entire facilities and understand well of Lean level in this organization, then next is 2 ways communicates with factory GM for understanding his/her needs and directions. More communications to his/her senior management some time is required to let you more confident on the Hoshin plan establishments. In agreeable you should present your Hoshin plan to top management team and obtain the commitments. Second step is to conduct the 2 days Lean class for executives and senior management in order to gain the executives’ engagements. The Hoshin plan and deployment strategy/ methods as well as the benefits should include into your training materials. During the kick-off meeting just after the speech of GM you should at least spend 1 hour presentation to let every employees acknowledgeable about the initiative and benefits or “what’s meant for you”. Please remember 1 important key point is made your presentation directs and simples.

In Lean Fundamental Set-up phase, the operational director or at least the production manager should be fully engaged. You should ensure the communication well with them for the detail such as the benefits and results expectation, what they should do, what are their responsibilities and yours. The simple 5S and Visual Management training should be given out to all production managers, line supervisors and line leaders. The key point of the training materials is to highlight the expectation from them in shop floor management. Rewards and recognition as well as the punishment (for the worse line) should be clearly define and keep consistence for the entire campaign periods.

The major goal in Lean Acceptance Phase is to create the Lean culture at shop floor employees. This is done by set-up the SGA culture by engagement to all line employees. SGA activities can and should include following topic; Sometime the effective way is to concentrate on few model line first for limited resources and easy management.

  1. Shop floor quality improvement


  1. Establish Work Standard at shop floor


  1. Operation procedure optimization


The following training should be conducted for line supervisors and front line supervisor (line leaders);

  1. SGA methodology


  1. Quality 7 tools


  1. 7 wastes


  1. TWI’s Job Instruction module


  1. TWI’s Job Relations module


  1. TWI’s Job Methods module


Besides, the SGA infrastructure should be set-up that covered SGA committees (chaired by production manager), rewards and recognition, SGA review and SGA presentations. The key point in this phase is to ensure the results to show to management and every employee. You should able to see the tremendous improvement on quality, productivities and cost saving if you do it right in this phase. Sometime the SGA team should include some members from engineering department too in order to enrich the engineering skill in the team for certain improvement activities. Congratulation if you have followed these 3 phases and your organization should achieve continuous improvement culture that key leverage for more Lean transformation next in phase 4.

In Lean Realization Phase which the improvements are planned to achieve certain operational target. Again the well communications play a vital role for the success of this phase; you should show the Hoshin plan again to management team and obtained their engagement again for the event and show them the way how to achieve it, such as VSM and Kaizen workshop. If the facility is machine domination then TPM should be deployed in order to improve quality and machine effectiveness. Just in Time system should be set-up too for the entire stream of operation and supply chain connections. The key point for any such a system set-up is again the well communication. The objectively training should be planned for everyone involvement in the initiative that should covered management team and shop floor employees.

What’s the next after this? Well, you should able to relax and have the Starbucks coffee, and waiting for the harvest come. The well established Lean culture company is self-motivation on improvement activities, and your job is to ensure the right directions and provide more Lean tools in order to speed-up the improvement progress and challenge the team for squeegees more improvements.

Of course different company culture and establishment should apply Lean differently but the concept is similarity. It’s increasing the uncertainly especially when you have a little Lean knowledge or someone is not believed in Lean GM. It’s quite hard for you to educate your stubborn GM, in this case you should looking for the help from regional or global Lean team if you have it or advice your GM to take outside reliable training class or any Toyota trip in Japan that organized by local consultant firm. The worse case if the GM spoken this to you, “I am forced to hire someone with Lean expert and I am totally not trusted on Lean”, then the only way out if you cannot convince him/her for the Lean then better you find another company to continue your career path.

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