Leadership is one of the aspects of business that has different meanings and utilization for everyone.  It is hard to describe and relate to without common experiences.  The focus of lean, doing processes better, cheaper, easier, faster, and safer for the customer, allows for a direction and commonality for everyone to relate.  The question becomes how to implement.

Using the Toyota Way book by Jeffery Liker and his description of the 14 principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS) provides the pathway for leadership in a lean environment.  Under principle 9, we are tasked with growing leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others[1].  The theme of leadership at Toyota is the two dimensional model of bottom-up development and in-depth understanding of work.  By laying the groundwork for this long-term vision of the organization, the team members will produce lasting competitive advantage, longevity, and long-term success.  Liker describes a Toyota leader as seldom giving orders but mentor through questioning.  The goal is to building a learning organization and culture.  Several ways this is accomplished was through:

  • Focus on long-term purpose as a value-added contributor to society
  • Never deviated from the principles of the TPS
  • Lived and modeled themselves around the TPS
  • Worked their way through the organization doing detailed work
  • Continued to go to the gemba
  • Saw problems as opportunities to train and coach team members

In your experience, have you implemented this approach to change or improve your organization’s culture, grow leaders, experienced long-term business success?  What worked for your organization?  What didn’t work for your organization?

Contact me at kapanowskig@gmail.com so we can develop a lesson learned report to help everyone in the Michigan Lean Consortium community.

Gary Kapanowski – Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt – Excelsior

The following blog is the opinion of Gary Kapanowski and Garykapanowski.com.  It is the sole intent to broadcast this opinion from Gary Kapanowski and Garykapanowski.com exclusively and not to reflect on any other institutions or organizations associated with Gary Kapanowski or Garykapanowski.com.


[1] The Toyota Way, Jeffrey Liker (2004)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *