6 Lean Lessons in Leadership: Learnings from Washington State Lean Transformation

Integris Performance Advisors Team Meeting aboard My Girl in Tacoma, WA.
Integris Performance Advisors Team Meeting aboard My Girl in Tacoma, WA. (I’m back row, 3rd from left.)

Last week I attended the Washington State Lean Transformation Conference with Integris Performance Advisors. As a leadership consultant I often work with Integris in a corporate setting, and it’s intriguing to learn about the company’s roots in Lean/Six Sigma and leadership in a government context where @ResultsWA goal is to improve the lives of Washingtonians.

What is Lean? According to goleansixsigma.com, Lean is simply a method of streamlining a process, resulting in increased revenue, reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction. I’m interested in the interplay between innovation and leadership and in my second visit to the conference in two years, was impressed that so many of the presenters stressed the critical importance that leadership and coaching play in creating Lean government.

So here is my take on what I heard from the folks and partners @resultsWA and leadership.

  1. Start with Respect. I love that to improve our work we first need to start with respecting others and building a culture of respect. Of course, it makes sense. No one wants to share their ideas or suggest solutions to problems if there is a lack of respect. The message was clear: if you don’t have an organization where people feel respected, start there – not on process improvement.
  2. Build a language of leadership to build culture. The language we use creates our environment and our culture. If your organization doesn’t talk about and reinforce dignity and respect, you likely will have a hard time engaging others to innovate. See lesson #1.
  3. Break it down. We can’t innovate until we are very familiar with what exists. Each of us might have our own personal understanding of “what is,” however, until you shine a light on the process, it exists in our minds only. That light is shown in many ways, but we have to break down the process before we can determine what needs to go and what needs to stay.
  4. Use humble coaching. This is a nuance that I had not heard articulated until now. It’s in line with my idea that our “belief in people” can help increase their engagement and development. It goes one step further, however, and reminds you to take your self-interest out of the equation. Leave your “great advice” at the door – in most cases – and truly coach by asking opinions and helping people grow their problem-solving capabilities.
  5. Reflection is key for improving your work and your world. This is a theme that I return to frequently. If you don’t take time to reflect, you may be implementing ideas that are “half-baked.” In her sessions entitled “Burn the Popcorn,” Carol Knight -Wallace shared a brainstorming technique called the 7 Ways. To use this technique, think of 7 ways to solve the problem at hand. This is a great technique to help you reflect on your challenge and prevent the mistakes that come with rushed decisions.
  6. It’s about relationships. If you don’t have the relationship, it’s very hard to inspire people to want to work WITH you to improve what you do and how you do it. To create and implement “what’s next and new” you need to have the attention of others. That comes from building a strong relationship, including getting to know those around you. Good at your work relationships? Work to make them deeper and you will reap the rewards as people deepen their trust in you.

And speaking of relationships, thanks to the Managing Partners of @IntegrisPA: Tracy O’Rourke, Evans Kerrigan and Brett Cooper for inviting me along. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this fabulous team of consultants (pictured above in our team meeting on the Puget Sound), helping create healthy workplaces…and just having fun!

 

 

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