Leader Standard Work for LEAN LEADERSHIP

What is your standard as a Manager or a Leader?

Some insight; in vibrant, progressive organizations that strive to integrate continuous improvement with running the business, you need to be both an effective manager and leader fundamentally becoming a Lean Leader. The challenge is creating a standard that comprises both sets of skills and approaches. The Lean Leader has documented standards that drive their day toward servant-minded leadership and management. The difference between the roles and responsibilities is subtle but important to understand. Managers in general have the responsibilities plan, handle and make decisions with daily activities to guide teams to desired outcomes; safety, quality, delivery of goods and services with a close eye on cost as part of the work activity.

Leaders by contrast have two primary responsibilities in business; provide resources and remove barriers. Successful organizations require a constant focus on strategic needs (improving, growing, performing, and why) and tactical demands (what, how, and metrics). The higher the level manager you are, the more power you have to provide the people you serve. Leaders routinely and wisely look into the process to identify with workers how well “the work” is working and serving their needs (SQDCME) while achieving the desired performance outcomes. Leaders show unending respect for people as they go about their day walking a fine line between management and leadership that seeks to identify problems (opportunities) with which to work with others (in Gemba) to solve and improve (through kaizen) outcomes and performance. This is the powerful combination of resource provision and removal of performance barriers. This is the space where managers shift to leaders that understand that all workers want to “get it right” but are often not equipped to do so because of shortcomings, whether it be poor documentation, unclear expectations, missing critical tools, process or methods. It is a time for managers to shift thinking and approach to work “on the business” rather than just manage “in the business.”

It is fundamental to make Leader Standard Work a routine for all managers to provide wide, regular access to employee experience (current state performance) and ideas (empowered talent and teamwork) for improving their work. Documented standards of activities establish a regiment that slowly moves tasks to become behaviors of managers focused on balancing both obligations of management and the needs of leadership at all levels across the organization. If you’ve always wondered about how LSW works, let the leader within you try an experiment. See the template below. Build a list of your normal planned daily duties and activities- including meetings. Then add in the Lean Leadership items below. Ideally, your day should not be completely full, as the day will certainly provide unplanned needs into your schedule. Print the list. Carry it with you all day, every day. Mark the line items that you actually get done. More importantly, write down why you didn’t get your planned items done. These notes are “flow interrupters” or barriers to your management priorities.

Review at the end of the week with your manager or director to identify opportunities to drive small improvements into daily routines that ultimately serve your team and promote a new standard of both effective management and leadership becoming Lean Leadership!

May you view your role as a manager with new eyes and ask how you can serve your people more effectively? And may you find relief and freedom of a more organized day that more quickly recovers from unplanned chaos to the standard of solid Lean Leadership.

Lean Leadership Activities

Once per day

  • Meet with previous shift supervisor (hand over meet)
  • Monitor production startup (daily start of shift huddle)
  • Gemba walk with the team leader (for waste, safety- go with intent)
  • Complete improvement tasks (documentation, data collection)
  • Work on process improvement (kaizen)
  • In-depth monitor standard work at one line (audit for standards)
  • Meet with next shift supervisor (hand over meet)

Multiple times per day

  • Department walkthrough (employees/communication)
  • Review tracking charts (verify data inputs, trends, action required)
  • Monitor start, stop times (change over time)
  • Monitor team leader standard work (review 1 on 1 with peer)

Supervisor Standard Work accounts for 50% of a Lean Supervisor’s time.

Example of Leader Standard Work:


Interested in becoming a Lean Leader? Check out Optima’s Lean Leader Virtual Workshop.

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  1. Great article! Truly enjoyed the practical example to carry the template with you all day and mark the items you get done and the reasons why you didn’t get the planned items done! Hopefully patterns will emerge. Thank you for the list of activities. Could you possibly send me the above template?