Strategos Lean Briefing

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25 October 2004             

Manufacturing Leadership

"This day is called the Feast of Crispian..."

On this day, St. Crispin's Day, October 25, in the year 1415, Henry V defeated the French armies, against overwhelming odds, at Agincourt. This would be a minor footnote in history had Shakespeare not immortalized it. Leadership was a favorite theme for Shakespeare and, indeed, much of world literature. 

The Toyota Production System required leadership of a particular type. Without the Charismatic- Transformational leadership of Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, Toyota Motor Company would be a minor firm in a backwater market. 

Lean Manufacturing implementation requires this same leadership, albeit in a lesser degree.

Manufacturers seem to have special difficulty developing leadership for Lean Manufacturing. (Recall the John De Lorean experience at GM). When they do recognize the need, they may not distinguish effective leaders from charlatans There are several reasons for this, among them: 

  • Manufacturing attracts personality types that rarely appreciate its Socio-Technical-Systems nature. It is, usually, a business of detailed, technical problems rather than grand vision. 

  • Organizations with a successful history promote those who preserve the successful status quo, rather than disturb it. This works well until a discontinuity in the organizational paradigm (Lean Manufacturing) or the environment (Global Economy) comes along.

  • Many people confuse toughness (or just nastiness) with leadership. This  confusion seems especially pronounced in manufacturing. Hollywood does not usually help with the misconception. Yet, looking beyond the superficial belligerence of film characters such as Sargent Stryker, we often see the essentials of effective leadership. We can learn a lot from films.

Our eleven web pages and three downloads explore leadership issues in Lean Manufacturing. They include a self-assessment that can help you to understand your own style and potential. These pages also include audio links that illustrate leadership style and an extensive analysis of Henry V. We also offer leadership training at the work team and top management levels. 

I hope you find these pages enjoyable and useful. We wish you all the best on this St. Crispin's day, 2004. 

Quarterman Lee

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