The role of leadership in lean transformation can be summarized in four categories.
Are we setting alignment around the vision? Every level of an organization should be able to easily explain how their work systemically contributes to corporate goals and therefore customer value. The process connecting the organization can be viewed just as you can view a mechanical device, therefore continually improved!
Design and support processes that provide value to customers i.e. value streams. Ask each functional area to show you how their work aligns with up and down stream processes. If the connection is not forthright you cannot rely on your processes to provide consistent customer value. Silos degrade customer value, hitting walls between functions causing rework. Value streams allow customer value to flow through functional work units with the least disruption.
Develop people to take personal responsibility for solving problems. Is everyone in the organization trained and capable to solve problems with a disciplined cause-and-effect method? Solving the same problems over and over again is not good problem solving! Additionally, does each level of the organization have accountability to solve problems in their own work or is this responsibility delegated to some higher authority? The best and sustainable solutions come from the people that actually do the work.
Create the environment for effective problem solving. The behaviors and skills of leadership to provide Socratic coaching in an environment safe to try is directly correlative to your turnover rates and level of team work. Leaders behaviors (not words) define your environment.
All of four of these leadership roles are much easier to talk about than to do. Effective leadership of continuous improvement requires leaders to engage in their own personal improvement journey. Where are you in yours?