But wait! What to do with the lean coaches you hired and the lean department you set up? In the previous posts there is no mention of them, not even with regards to who to train for this new habit. There is a good reason for that. Even if that might mean that perfectly good and capable lean coaches no longer have a job. Well, not in a lean department anyway.
If you remember the high impact, low investment set up for training and support, you might already see what’s coming. Every manager becomes a continuous improvement coach. Continuous improvement is not the job or responsibility of a coach or a department. It is the responsibility of the manager or department that wants to improve. It can’t be anything else. If you as a manager see potential for improvement (or someone in your team of course) and you hand it over to someone else, what kind of message does that send? What do you think will happen if the manager and the department concerned no longer feel it is their goal or responsibility? That they asked someone else, from a completely different department to improve their process.
It is not as strange as it may seem. Being a manager means you are responsible for people and a process, or a couple of processes. Also, you were not hired to keep everything as it is. You were hired to bring things forward. Not alone of course. There is a whole department of skilful and motivated people to do that with you. How cool is that? Basically your only job is to get them so enthusiastic that they come up with more improvement proposals than you can handle.
One very important thing to make that happen is that you all understand very well what it is that you contribute to the overall goal of the company. How do your department goals and the goals of each individual add up to make a difference for the company? It will give clarity on what is expected of everyone and how their talents and skills are needed to move forward. That is what motivates people. Being recognised for their mastery and craftsmanship, alongside a goal that challenges them to give it their best is a guaranteed route to enthusiasm.
By taking on the role of the improvement coach, you help people very directly in not only improving the process and thereby its outcome, but also themselves. By doing experiments and learning from them, they will learn about themselves and will want to gain knowledge about how to keep moving. It is like being a sportcoach. They say over and over; “try again. Followed by; What happened? What was different from what you expected? What have you learned from that? Now try again.” And again. And again. Until, you guessed it, it becomes a habit. After which you move on to the next thing to improve. It is after all continuous improvement.
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