lean leadership in manufacturing


Manufacturing leadership can easily become about nothing but processes, logistics, safety, and efficiency. If it’s your daily routine to circulate from your office to the boardroom and back again, that needs to be disrupted.

Change Leadership requires the leader’s personal evolution from managing tasks to managing people. It’s a change of focus that needs to leap off the memos and into your routine.

Be more visible. Be seen on the shop floor and on the odd coffee break. Be the “good cop” sometimes, and ask about more than work. Get to know the people who are going to build your business.


Inspire People, Don’t Bulldoze

Change Leaders need to articulate their vision clearly to themselves (don’t skip that part), and then to their team. But what about those who are comfortable just the way things are?

If you bulldoze through them with your vision, it taints the process from the beginning. When you encounter the “but we’ve always done it this way” crowd (often referred to as the old guard), you need to use your vision to erode their resistance. Here’s how:

change leadership in manufacturing



If you’re a quiet leader who likes to keep to yourself, that will need to change. Change Leadership is about building people, and that takes advanced communication skills. If you lack these, but want to become that leader, there’s no harm in reaching out to a professional coach or other mentor to help you.

Here’s what communication looks like in a change-driven manufacturing business:

communication change-driven manufacturing



Change Leadership begins with authentically asking your team for their ideas. But it goes on from there.

Ideas aren’t worth much without accountability driven execution. You’ll be spending more of your time coaching and developing your team, but your other pressure aren’t taking a holiday.

Delegation is the natural evolution of empowerment. Invest in your team, build processes for them to be able to execute their ideas, then learn to step back. Your stress level will decrease as your employees’ new responsibilities become routine, and their ideas become part of systemic change.


Visualize It

Process improvement is about constant definition and measurement. People need to see where change is needed, what change is happening, and how successful change has been. And they need to see it in a glance.

Be transparent with your KPIs for delivery, cost, safety, etc. Buy a big whiteboard and use it to track the course of each KPI daily. If delivery isn’t on target, there’s a reason. The team directly involved with transportation needs to know that, be motivated, and sniff out waste to change the course.

Make the whiteboard democratic. Put it in the centre of the office (not in the boardroom) and provide post-it’s for ideas. Make it the hub of your daily stand-ups and keep it simple.


A successful shift to Lean Leadership relies on making the transition feel natural to your team. Start small. Introduce the whiteboard, and invite people to use it as a team communication tool. Build trust by helping your team get to know you as well as you’d like to know them. Successful change is cumulative, so taking it one step at a time can help build a more cohesive team dynamic as you move forward.


“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”

 John Maxwell


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