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The similarities between Lean and Leadership can be striking and a bit uncanny.  They both are focused on removing waste from an organization instead driving what adds value in the overall enterprise.


However, one is an activity (Lean) while the other is more of a behavior. (Leadership)


Both have toolkits. Lean has value stream mapping, visual factory, Kaizens, etc.  Leadership has communication techniques, effective meeting agendas, establishing clear accountability, etc. (All part of the Shamrock Paradigm of Effective Leadership).

The core difference is that while some would argue that Lean is a mindset, the tools do not create the mindset. Effective Leadership IS the mindset. The mindset must be established to enable the success of the tool. Let me explain.


Think of it more as the hammer and the carpenter.


If we think of the Lean tools as a hammer, we know that are not very effective or impactful on a business if the carpenter is only average, or the carpenter is not well trained in their craft.

Now shift to thinking of one of Lean’s tools: visual stream mapping. In the hands of the wrong leader, or an untrained leader, it is just another tool that does not drive value to the organization, one that leaves the employees exhausted with yet another tool that has been introduced, but did not improve their job or make their boss happy with bust out results.


Now, picture the visual stream mapping tool in the hands of a well-trained Leader, one who has become a master of effective leadership behaviors.


This leader is capable of driving engagement with the tool and helping the employees with a style of leadership that makes their job easier, opens the door to an environment that encourages ongoing feedback (REAL continuous improvement) and propels the group to new and reoccurring successes. Sounds like an environment that many would like to be part of, doesn’t it?


This IS what an Effective Leadership environment is. One capable of maximizing the impact of any tool, including Lean.


In the past few months, we have encountered several companies at varying levels of the Lean journey.

One was struggling, not making much progress at all in turning around a floundering plant. The KPIs were in the tank, so to speak. They tried to utilize Lean tools to propel the turnaround, however the employees just viewed it as another tool that was being thrown in their direction. They really had no perspective on WHY to use these tools. The tools seemed like one more activity that they needed to incorporate into an already overloaded day.

We utilized a leadership change process to change the mindset and effectiveness of the management team. (We trained the carpenter). Over a period of several months, we facilitated a significant increase in feedback to and from management, an increased level of accountability (by clearer expectations, thus less waste and more right the first time activities) and many other leadership changes.  The overall site (management AND the employees) began to change their mindsets… and voilà: the Lean tools began to take effect.

The results were dramatic. The site produced millions more in value to the organization in less than six months.

Sure, not every site is a turnaround like the one described above. But if you invest in a tool, wouldn’t you also want a carpenter capable of maximizing its use?


Train your carpenters.


If you want your team to have the training and mindset to embrace new tools that you will need to implement to propel your business forward, including Lean, we are ready to help.  Call 312-939-5541 to set up a FREE consultation call with John Casey, head of Shamrock Consultants.


Shamrock Consultants creates leaders who deliver results.

Crucial ConversationsShamrock leverages 26 years of leadership development experience to assist organizations in the transformation to effective leadership using unique, powerful, and PROVEN methods – methods created from data collected from 40,000 managers at 2,000 different businesses.
I’m John Casey and I bring 26 years of assessing and coaching leaders, to your organizations’ leadership benchmarking and transformation process to help your managers become highly effective LEADERS.

My heart, my research, and my experience are all in my work, and it shows clearly in my client interactions and their organizations’ leadership results.