The Principal Elements of a Lean Management System

The lean management system only consists of a few principal elements with each element in the system being interdependent of the other. For the system to work, each element must be present and cannot be too complex or complicated. The principal elements of the Lean Management System are as follows: Leader Standard Work, Visual Controls, Daily Accountability Process, and Leadership Discipline.

Leader Standard Work
Leader standard work provides structure and routine that helps leaders shift from a sole focus on results to a dual focus on process plus results. Standard work provides a foundation for continuity, capturing basic practices across changes in incumbents, which decreases the variability that might destabilize the production process. When the leader follows their standard work effectively, the rest of the lean management system has a good chance of operating effectively.

Visual Controls
Visual controls translate performance of every process into expected versus actual, throughout the production and management systems. Lots of people can whip up a bunch of visual tracking charts in Excel, but they must be used effectively. They must be displayed in highly visual, widely accessible, and readily reviewed formats. The visuals indicating true performance convert the driving force of leader standard work into traction. These visuals give leaders the ability to quickly spot and move to action where actual performance has not met what was expected.

Daily Accountability Process
Through daily accountability the leader can steer and set direction for improvement activity in the area. In the daily accountability process, leaders assess the meaning in the visuals, assign appropriate responses, and hold people accountable for completing their assigned tasks. This follow-up process occurs largely in the structure of daily tiered meetings.

Leadership Discipline
Leadership discipline is the fourth element in the Lean Management System and is the fuel that powers the entire system. Establishing leader standard work, visual controls, and a daily accountability session will not amount to anything without the discipline to execute those elements as designed and intended. If the lean management system is left unattended, the system will quickly deteriorate. Lean management that is well and consistently implemented helps bring the foundation of stability to lean production conversions, a foundation on which ongoing improvements can be built.

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