We work with clients who are struggling, or have struggled, to successfully implement lean transformations. Over the course of our work, we have found common denominators that cause these culture-changing efforts to fail, and one that comes to the forefront way too often is inadequate leadership. Unfortunately, one aspect of inadequate leadership that is all to prevalent is trust – or lack thereof, to be specific.
Leadership that is untrustworthy? It is not often spoken of, but trust is a foundational issue in any relationship, and the relationship of a lean leader to his/her subordinates and peers is no exception. In fact, the very nature of a lean transformation puts more pressure on this issue of trust than almost any other improvement effort. If any organization does not have leaders who are trustworthy – or perceived as being trustworthy – then any effort to implement and sustain lean is likely to fail.
Trust is the glue that binds relationships. It applies at home, and it applies at work. And there is one time that trust is really, really important – and that is anytime you encourage others to join hands with you and head into the unknown.
That is why a strong relationship based on trust is so important in a lean implementation. Lean is all about change, and change is all about venturing into the unknown. The unknown is uncomfortable for all of us – frequently so uncomfortable that it causes us to freeze. This discomfort makes it seemingly impossible to summon the courage to venture into the unknown. Frequently we are more willing to accept a known bad situation than attempt to solve a situation with some risk attached to it.
For those of you who are entrusted to lead your organizations, I have one question: As a leader, can you provide the guidance, the assistance and the support necessary so everyone is willing, to one degree or another, to act in the face of these risks? In other words, have you developed and demonstrated the personal traits and lean competency required to become the lean leader your organization and/or workforce will trust to follow?