Lean Leadership and Employee Empowerment

Guest Post by Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

“Becoming Lean” is about much more than implementing a set of tools and measuring metrics.  A big part of becoming Lean is the culture and attitudes of those who are involved in the processes.  Leaders are extremely important in instilling the culture changes into their employees so that their Lean journey can be successful. 

Lean leaders should empower employees and encourage them to solve problems themselves to continually improve the processes they work with.  This is why team members who are closest to the work should make up about 50% of the team for Kaizen events.  When leaders “go to the gemba,” they should try to understand the process and ask questions to surface any issues so that employees can solve problems based on observations.

An example of how employees can be empowered to make changes is by using an IDEA board— “IDEA” standing for Improvements Driven by Employee Action.  This allows employees to compare the current state to their ideal future state, describing the improvement and what problems it would solve.  On Michigan Tech’s campus, there is an IDEA board in the Memorial Union Building kitchen where employees can post their ideas for improvements.