Taiichi-Ohno-Lean-Management Belgium

Lean Manager Role and Responsibilities in Management

Lorenzo Del Marmol

June 2, 2018

When it comes to manufacturing and services, there are a lot of point of views about horizontal and vertical management. Most companies have vertical reporting lines. These usually have horizontal communication on the same management (vertical) level. A value stream manager allows the organization to see the process or service as a whole. He is tasked to streamline the whole process.

Protocol and ownership

As a matter of protocol, a manager would confer with a colleague who is of the same management level. With any cross-department discussion, a manager would not pass along a task to a person of higher rank in another department. Unfortunately, these strict rules of inter-department protocol leads to processes and materials which are not optimized to produce a product.

Product line ownership does not exist in a traditional non-lean management. There are process owners and they have responsibility and control over a specific task relative to the production line. Wastage occurs because the process is not viewed nor designed as a system or as a whole. This is where the lean manager comes in. His task is to ensure that the whole process adheres to lean management principles. The job itself is a continuous iteration which takes into account developments outside of his job but directly affects the production process.


Lean manager responsibilities

The lean manager’s job is to optimize the production or service process. As such he would need to go beyond departmental borders. The tasks he needs to do start from defining the process and products, studying the current process and designing production with lean management concepts, and down the line including implementation and operations:

  1. The lean manager is tasked to define the product, service or family of product and services. The product or service is defined based on the input and parts, as well as routing and processes involved.
  1. Create a state value stream map which includes all the value streams in the process.
  1. Study the current state map based on all available data.
  1. Create a long term ideal state map. This should include the product value streams as they would appear in the long term.
  1. Optimize the state map with the use of lean techniques. This will point out possible waste, eliminate the identified waste sources, and create short and middle term state maps which improve on the process value.
  1. Create an implementation plan to turn the current state map to the short term, mid-term and long term state map.
  1. Implement the plan. As the lean manager, he will have to lead the implementation.
  1. In line with the implementation, the lean manager has to mobilize the stakeholders, including employees of the various departments, suppliers and customers. They should be appraised of the required changes as the plan is implemented.
  1. Provide leadership in the day-to-day operations of the value stream. This ensures that the stakeholders meet the current production demands, at the same time the changes are improvements are also met.

Multiple hats

The lean manager is tasked with understanding the whole process and to improve it according to lean strategies and techniques. After careful study, he has to be able to sell the idea to the various line managers and process owner. They, in turn, have to understand that they have already done their best to optimize their own process, and it is time to move forward and implement production as a whole. Stakeholders outside of the company also have to be assured that they will not be left out and instead they will benefit from the improvements. The day-to-day operations for the process also have to be monitored to ensure that the production numbers are met and that changes continue to be implemented.

As a matter of course, any changes in the industry or in the way the company conducts business also has an effect on the implementation. It is expected that at any point, it would be necessary to redo the whole implementation plan to take into account improvements outside of the company.

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