Why is vertical leadership not suitable for leading lean teams?
For a long time, the traditional vertical leadership in lean model was widely adopted in most companies around the world.
In the past, it has proven to be very useful, as it allowed the lean management to keep a good grip on all levels of the organization and to hold all the decision-making power.
This model has become obsolete and impractical, especially in the context of lean management.
Because many of the practices of traditional management come into conflict with the 5 principles on which the lean methodology is based.
There are 8 major differences between shared leadership and vertical management. In the context of lean, the vertical model can be quite restrictive because:
- Power is too centralized
- Information sharing is rarely encouraged
- Decision-making power is a privilege limited to management
- Feedback loops are difficult to maintain
This is largely due to the limitations that the vertical model imposes on team actions.
For example, knowing that it is necessary to consult with a manager, who then must seek executive approval for any changes, often dampens a team’s desire to suggest improvements and therefore finds itself stuck, doing the same thing repeatedly.
What is Shared Leadership?
Shared leadership is based on the central idea that the main role of a leader is to guide his team to achieve the common goal and not to be a leader giving orders from a position of superiority.
In the shared leadership model, the hierarchy is more informal, and the leader must agree to be a member of the team and not a superior being whose approval is required, even for the smallest tasks.
Leaders who are driven by the principle of shared leadership spread knowledge and aim to provide transparency to their teams. They provide an overview to the team to set up a better collaboration. The sharing of ideas is encouraged, and the leader ensures that the environment is conducive to their development.
The backbone of the shared leadership culture is the delegation of responsibility across the organization and providing large numbers of individuals with the ability to execute decisions, to some degree, without the supervisor’s approval.
The greatest benefit of shared leadership is that a skilled and motivated team can deliver more value in a shorter time frame when they have greater freedom of action and are not limited by excessive bureaucracy.
As a lean leader, you need to let and help your team take control of their process.
You need to encourage collaboration and regularly check in with your team.
Implement shared leadership in a lean environment
During the early stages of implementing lean strategy, you should make it clear that everyone is expected
to become a leader in their field.
To do this, you may need to make a clear distinction between the role of a leader and that of a leader.
Share responsibility for identifying the value of work
You need to help your team understand the value produced for your organization’s end customers and encourage them to look for ways to increase it.
Familiarize your team with the activities considered wasteful by lean and discuss ways to focus on those that bring the most value to your customer base.
Help each individual understand their role in the value generation process and identify and refine their contribution to this process.
Be aware of organizational silos and overcome this mentality to improve collaboration. You don’t want the “it’s not my job” attitude on your team, so make sure your whole team is on the same page.
Map the value stream together
Once the value of your team’s work has been identified, you should map the value stream of your process. While you may fully understand your process, this responsibility shouldn’t just rest with the manager.
It’s the individuals who make it work daily and encounter issues that you don’t always notice. Who are on the “front line”, so you should break it down in detail and visualize it collectively.
If you organize your work on a Kanban board, once the team is familiar with how it works. Discuss any changes to your process steps and give them the freedom to suggest improvements.
This is especially important for cross-functional teams made up of individuals from different areas of expertise (e.g., marketing, research, development, sales).
If you are forming a new team of this type, bring together all the individuals. Who will make it up and give them the freedom to develop their collaborative process?
As the formal leader, you should either approve their project or suggest ways to improve it if flaws are present.
Create a flow collectively
In lean management, creating and maintaining a workflow is crucial. Although establishing one is more the responsibility of the manager, your team should take ownership of it.
She must be aware of how all tasks assigned to the team are progressing and be alert to obstacles.
By embracing a shared leadership culture, you should provide them with the flexibility to transfer their capabilities and manage flow issues.
That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t let you know and share his action plan, but he shouldn’t have to ask for permission to ensure smooth workflow.
Let your team pick up tasks
Once the flow is defined, you should put in place a method of regulating work. This is another essential aspect of lean management that may be impossible to apply with the traditional leadership model. This is one of the most difficult changes for managers used to constantly delegating work.
The work throttling method is a system that limits the amount of work going on simultaneously.
So, everyone focuses on one thing at a time. And only starts working on new tasks when they can process them without abandoning an ongoing action.
To put it simply, rather than constantly looking for free individuals and sending them work. By embracing a culture of shared leadership.
Create an environment conducive to continuous improvement
Perhaps the most important benefit of the shared leadership model for lean expertise. Is that it allows continuous improvement to flourish. This allows each team member to take ownership of their process.
This is because it will be easier to improve by having the freedom to make certain decisions. And therefore everyone will strive to progress. What they do shows that the trust placed in them is justified.
Individual improvement is only one side of the coin. Your team will feel more comfortable suggesting improvements to their workflow and conducting their experiments.
However, by taking ownership of its workflow. It will be able to develop continuously to form a group and achieve the symbiosis of the different actions.
Thus, the collaboration will constantly evolve. Each member of the team will be able to naturally complement the others. And your role will become more of a leader and less of a manager.