For successful Lean leadership we need to separate responsibility and authority. This seems strange because we normally think that authority and responsibility are linked together. Could this be another Lean thinking paradox!
The focus in a Lean organisation has shifted from “who has the authority” to “what is the right thing to do”. This is achieved by getting each person to take initiative to actually solve problems that improve his or her job, by placing individual responsibility at the lowest possible level where the work is actually done. and ensuring that every person’s job is aligned with providing value for the customer that ultimately leads to prosperity for the company.
Our job as a Lean leader is to help expose problems and then make sure people have the skills and the tools to solve these problems. It is more a philosophy of “let’s figure this out together” and creating an environment where learning from mistakes is an accepted part of our continuous improvement process.
To help expose problems we must spend more time in the process asking why, and then focus on giving people the responsibility and ownership for developing and implementing the solution. Lean leaders avoid relying on authority, instead leading by influence and example, as if they have no authority.