I am pleased to announce that Lean Culture – The Leader’s Guide is now published and available on Amazon.

From the Back Cover:

Lean Culture – The Leader’s Guide provides a road map to implementing lean culture within your organization. This guide represents the knowledge gained through thirty-five years of field experience implementing large scale change in the culture of organizations. This guide presents the principles and process of changing organization culture to capitalize on the competitive advantages of lean.

Lean culture is a lot more than the tools and techniques of lean. It is the framework of values, daily habits and relationships within which those techniques can succeed and be sustained. Without the support of the culture, the techniques often fail. The sustainable value is in the culture and management process in which continuous improvement becomes a daily habit at every level. The purpose of this book is to help you build this culture.

The Leader’s Guide will show you how to…

… Instill the habits, values and management process of daily life in a lean organization.
…Engage all members of the organization, from top-to-bottom, in a consistent and organized process of improvement.
…Be the change! Model the behavior you expect from others.
…Align systems, structure, skills, style  and symbols to the new culture.

The Preface:

Lean management and culture has become the standard setting model of modern management. However, effective management did not begin and will not end with what we now think of as lean. Many previous methods and theories have contributed to today’s best practices. If you are managing a business you are too busy to sort out all the hype around various techniques and buzz words. I have tried to help by integrating best practices into a single unified process that deals with both the habits of daily life in the organization and a more strategic view of developing organizational capabilities.

When Shoichiro Irimajiri came to the United States to lead the startup of Honda America Manufacturing in Marysville, Ohio he happened to buy a book in the Tokyo airport before his flight. This book, American Spirit: Visions of a New Corporate Culture, proposed that there were eight cultural principles inherent in the American culture upon which a new corporate culture could be build. “Mr. Iri”, as Irimajiri would come to be known, thought that “If this is what Americans believe, we can succeed.” This book was then used in the training of all of Honda’s managers for some time. Scott Whitlock, the Executive Vice President of Honda America Manufacturing, taught the course on the Honda Way. He would periodically call me to clarify some obscure point in my book that I had completely forgotten about!

Honda's Shoichiro Irimijiri

Several times I went to Honda to study their culture and speak to their managers and suppliers. What was clear was that Honda was not simply copying what they had done in Japan. They were not focused on any one method or technique. They were creative pragmatists. They were carefully adapting American cultural principles to their own and synthesizing the best of both worlds. They had a firm dedication to principles and a belief that those principles had to be lived by all associates at every level of the organization. Mr. Iri was himself a model of the behavior and the culture he was trying to build. They were just as focused on creating the optimum social system as they were the technical system or work flow. The leadership he provided was not imitative, but creative. It was not something delegated to others, but was his personal mission.

What I am proposing to you in this book is that you adopt a similar approach. Respect and learn from what others have done. Model the principles and behavior you seek in others – be the change! And, be creative. Thoughtfully design the organizational systems and structures, social and technical, which support and reinforce your desired culture. This is the hard work of lean leadership.

This book is divided into two parts: Part One is a strategic process to align the organization to lean culture. Think of it this way – a culture of democracy cannot exist without the systems and structures that enable democracy. Most of the systems and structures of your organization were created in a previous culture, based on that culture’s assumptions and values. They reinforce and sustain the old culture, not the new one. They must be reconsidered and aligned to reinforce the behavior you want now and in the future. Part One provides an outline of a process to align your organization to lean culture. This is the job of leaders!

Part Two is about “being the change.” Lean is a culture of continuous improvement at every level of the organization. If the daily habits of continuous improvement are to be instituted as the normal way of life in your organization, you must be the change, model the behavior. The importance of modeling the behavior you desire cannot be overemphasized. Many lean implementations focus on techniques on the shop floor and fail to address the behavior and daily practices of managers. This is the primary cause of failure.

Part Two is drawn from my training manual, Lean Team Management and presents the core material on building an effective lean management team without the accompanying exercises and some of the skill building material.

I have also included two additional chapters that present what I believe to be useful perspectives on strategic leadership.