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Energize your leadership (and other goodies)

October 25th, 2009 admin Leave a comment Go to comments

This is a copy/paste from a blog I started at the end of last year, and then ignored for a while as priorities changed. I never realised I was such a talented author!!

What does it take to successfully lead a Lean Supply Chain or other improvement programme or project? Detailed knowledge of MRP, maybe? Being able to reel off the definitions of the different incoterms? Express Six Sigma to six decimal places.

Well, maybe, but’s let’s start elsewhere. How about a little enthusiasm and energy. Or even lots of it. Leaders need enthusiasm and energy themselves. But they also need to be able to mobilize and sustain it within their organizations.

So how do they go about doing this? How do they raise employee expectations, change people’s behaviours and obtain the attention and commitment of teams and individuals at all levels of their organisation or project?

There is clearly a link here with clear, comprehensive and compelling communication. From setting ‘ccc’ objectives to being able to tell a ‘ccc’ story, and building an inspiring and ‘ccc’ view of a much better long-term future. And not forgetting a ‘ccc’ big thank you to celebrate ‘ccc’ successes.

Obviously, being capable of generating energy is not the be-all and end-all of successfully implementing the change programme. Setting and managing challenging objectives, addessing impacts on short-term performance, and engaging people at all levels of the organisation all contribute amongst other factors to increasing the chances of success.

But, in the end, it all comes down to the profile of the leader. Certainly, he will go through phases of anxiety, confusion, frustration, fatigue and resistance. However the positive emotions – pride and enthusiasm - normally outscore the difficult phases in the makeup of successful leaders.

Then this came two days later under the title ‘Maintaining Confidence in Times of Crisis’. Good, eh?

The current economic crisis has resulted in a climate of concern in many companies today. How do we maintain momentum and commitment during these difficult times?

The manager/leader has a key role in reassuring his workforce. How does he go about this? The minimum is to be seen, either through spending less time away and more ‘at home’, or less in the office and more on the ground with the employees (if you see what I mean). It is important to show solidarity, and be prepared to listen to the options and concerns of the workforce. However, there is a limit, and any major changes in behaviour may have the adverse effect, and increase concern amongst the staff.

Another important point is to be transparent. It is impossible to pretend that “all is well” when everyone knows very well that it is not. Communication, and especially information, need to be reinforced during these periods, both up and down the hierarchy. Words must be supported by actions and attitude, as we all know the importance of the non-verbal aspects of our language.

Finally, the leader has to underline the contribution of any improvement initiatives to improving the overall situation for his company or department. Times of lesser activity are often ripe for intensifying change, which can be a major motivator in difficult periods.

In-between, I’d done a bit on how to implement Lean Manufacturing. Simple, isn’t it?

Firstly, and most importantly, the company culture needs to be steered towards continuous improvement and the use of Lean tools and methods.

Secondly, management needs to provoke – and provoke is probably the right word – a drive to reduce the inventory and assets required to produce and deliver products. Make them do as much with less!

A thorough understanding of what is adding value compared with all the rest in next on the shopping list. Get rid of costs, whether they be manufacturing, logistics or selling, which are not contributing to the customer service objectives.

A commitment to a 100% on-time delivery objective through the synchronisation of manufacturing and logistics processes comes next. This involves both internal and external improvement drives.

Finally, increasing the flexibility of manufacturing and logistics operations is imperative.

Luckily, this current blog seems already to have lived a longer life than the previous one.

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