• Chet Marchwinski

Leadership Q&A: An Interview with Jerry Bussell

The LEI senior executive series on Lean Leadership

LEI: What are the advantages of a consortium?

Bussell: The big benefit is learning by doing. A consortium lets you leverage all the knowledge that's in it. People learn by doing with people who have the experience and are willing to share. It's the collaboration. The more people you haves in the consortium the more resources you van leverage among the members.

One of the big challenges of doing lean is that's it's a long-term journey; it's not easy. The more you can associate with other companies that are on the journey, the more people you'll have for support and encouragement. I think that helps you sustain what you accomplish.

LEI: What advice would you give to a manager or executive who is thinking about starting a consortium? Bussell: Go see. Go look at what's been done by others, understand the consortium models that are out there so you can learn the lessons that we had to learn the hard way. You'll understand how to have companies work together and how to structure the consortium.

LEI: Finally, we get calls from middle managers who have bought into a lean transformation but their senior management hasn't. As a senior manager, what could a middle manager have done to convince you to make the leap to lean thinking?

Bussell: Solve one of my problems. Ask me what my biggest problem is, and then go solve it by applying lean principles. That becomes very compelling.

The second thing is to take senior managers on a plant visit to another company so they can see what the benefits of lean are. Visit companies that have been at it for a long time and have inculcated lean concepts into their cultures and are spreading lean concepts beyond the manufacturing floor.

The third thing to do is implement lean in your area. Create a compelling example of what can happen if you go deep. Put everything -- problem solving, value-stream mapping, flow, visual controls -- into a pilot area and do an exceptional job to show senior management what's possible. Give them the proof.

People try to sell senior managers on doing a program approach to lean. And that doesn't work. What I missed and what a lot of people miss is that when you start senior management on a lean transformation, you have to do strategy deployment first. That is absolutely critical. Strategy deployment will show top management that lean thinking is an enabling strategy that will help them execute the business strategy. Lean isn't separate; it's not a program. It's integrated into every facet of the business.

More Lean reading: Lean Leadership: A Dialogue with Jerry Bussell

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