Learning from Lean, Conclusion

By Andrew Parris and Don Pope, reprinted from Christian Business ReviewCitations have been omitted.

Part seven of a series.

What Christian Leaders Can Learn from Lean

Christian leaders, workers and organizations can have confidence that they can learn from and apply Lean wisdom to help them succeed in their work and even to strengthen their Christian identity and mission….In line with these insights, we propose these priorities for Christian leaders derived from the seven Lean principles:…

4. Strengthen Continuous Improvement and Growth

Christian Leaders should develop a vision and a strategy with and for their organization, and then set stretch goals for the continuous improvement of their activities, processes, outputs and outcomes. They should expect every person and every part of the organization not just to do their work, but also to grow (personally and professionally) and to do their work better over time. What really helps in this is to document improvements, to share success stories and to recognize people and teams to continuously improve. Frequent and compelling communication of the vision, the strategy, and progress is essential.

5. Build Capacity and Empower Your People

Leaders should ensure that everyone receives training and coaching so that they are equipped and inspired not only to perform their work as best they can, but also to improve it. Initially, Christian leaders may rely on external expertise to provide training and coaching in the principles and tools of Lean, but over time they should develop internal expertise in Lean and expect managers and team leaders to coach their teams to improve. Leaders must also give their people authority and responsibility to improve.

6. Promote Unity and Collaboration

Christian leaders must take very seriously Jesus’ words on the importance of unity of believers and the importance of working together with others. Therefore, they build bridges that connect people and serve as peacemakers when there is division. They do what they can to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). They ask and encourage their people and teams to collaborate and partner with other individuals, teams and external partners.

7. Spend Time in the Gemba

Like Jesus, Christian leaders go to the workplace to know and to be known, to develop relationships and to build up people. For all Christians, the larger Gemba is the home, community, country and world in which we live. Christian leaders courageously, sacrificially and humbly go and challenge their people to go into the world, in order to learn, to bear witness to Jesus through word and deed, to live fully for God (Colossians 3:17), to build relationships of trust, to be peacemakers, to reconcile, to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8).

Closing Reflection

Chiarini et al. argue that non-Japanese organizations which adopt Lean do not need to change their society, culture or religion, but to change their frame of mind about how they manage. They stated, “Lastly, it could be interesting to investigate whether, in some way, there is a sort of Western approach for implementing Lean-TPS based on the same tools and techniques but with different principles more pertinent to our culture.” In this article, we argue that Christianity – while fundamentally very different from Japanese religions – aligns well with Lean principles and thus provides a welcoming and fertile different context for Lean. Lean principles remind Christian leaders to take the difficult steps to periodically reassess whom they are serving and challenge long-held notions of value versus waste as we seek to achieve our overarching mission of glorifying God and serving the world in his name.

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