Underpinnings of Lean Leadership

December 8, 2020
Underpinnings of Lean Leadership

Mr. Yoshinio was a young man working in a paint shop when he applied the wrong paint to a product.  Fearing his manager would fire him for this mistake, Mr. Yoshino was inspired when his manager listened and worked to correct a faulty process instead.

In cooperation with the Lean Enterprise Institute, consultant Katie Anderson describes how Lean legend Isao Yoshino learned first-hand the value of blaming the process instead of the people when failures occur.

Supply Chain Digest’s article highlights the underpinnings of Lean leadership in action.


Video Spotlight: 


This post is based on the Supply Chain Digest article, Supply Chain News: Lean Thinking Means Blaming Process, not People, by SCDigest Editorial Staff, October 14, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Juice Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Discussion Questions:

1. How did Mr. Yoshino’s manager demonstrate “respect for people” as a Lean principle?  What impact would this type of management behavior have on employees?

Guidance: Remind students that quality management, as a pre-condition to Lean success, is dependent on employees speaking up when they anticipate a quality issue.  Open communications between employees and managers is based on trust created by respect from the manager towards employees.  Productivity is likely enhanced by providing respect to employees as well.

2.  Why was it important that the manager listened to Mr. Yoshino describe what went wrong? How does this help “eliminate waste”?

Guidance: Mr. Yoshino’s manager demonstrated the value in understanding the process, and in particular, the failure of the process.  By understanding how the current process performed, the manager was in a better position to eliminate waste and improve quality & productivity by making changes to improve lean production.

Focus students on the importance of understanding how small details in a process can create larger issues.  While mapping can help, often the details that derail Lean production are best understood and corrected by listening to employees following a breakdown in the current process.

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