How To Embed a Lean Construction Culture – The Role of Leadership

Embedding a new culture into an organisation takes skilled leadership. The greatest leaders know that influence is more powerful than dominance and to change your company to a Lean culture will mean winning the hearts and minds of all stakeholders involved. They must understand your vision and believe in the benefits.   

So, what do we mean by a lean culture  

Forbes tell us: a lean approach is not always about doing more with less. It’s about eliminating waste, installing discipline, and mastering techniques that maximize productivity and optimize value to your customers.(1)  

Therefore, a Lean culture is about getting your team to embrace these principles, to see waste and to eliminate it in order to achieve greater efficiency. It sounds easy, but actually, this is a whole new way of thinking and working. As well as changing what is done i.e. the process of completing tasks, the ‘how and the ‘why’ need to be understood, embraced and applied.  

How often do we robotically complete a task because we have always done it that way, rather than question why we are doing it and whether it can be done more productively a different way – or if it needs to be done at all. A Lean culture is about always striving for value and if something doesn’t add customer value, then it shouldn’t be done.   

It isn’t just the people in charge who need to lead within a Lean culture. Everyone has a role to play in driving Lean initiatives. All members of the team are responsible for continuously improving what they deliver.   

The role of leadership  

1) The start point for implementing a Lean culture is in creating the vision; this vision needs to be understood and become a shared vision across leadership, which can then be clearly communicated throughout the business. Leaders must be able to clearly articulate the ‘why’.   

2In order to visibly live the culture, leaders must become the ambassadors of Lean. This means leading the elimination of waste wherever they see it… This could even be by being mindful of not wasting others’ time by being late to meetings. Leaders must be accountable for implementing Lean and take due responsibility to ensure staff/projects are aligned. This means taking a GEMBA walk – go to the environment where your teams are working. Be seen. Get involved. Understand the process. See it in action. 

3) Empowering individuals through training and allowing time to dedicate to Lean initiatives. You can learn more about this in our previous blog The Benefits of Delivering Lean in Construction.

4To always strive for more. Leaders must be persistent for the ambition of zero waste, and being clear and accountable for delivering these ambitions  

5) To develop leaders of the future – delegation of authority, empowering decision making – giving team members the opportunity to demonstrate their potential. 

6Sharing best practice and promoting the wins will help to propel the advantages of Lean. 

How to make the Lean culture stick 

Once you have introduced a Lean culture, make sure you do not instantly withdraw the support you have put in place along the way. Make sure the change sticks – celebrate the successes, continue to offer appropriate training opportunities, keep communicating, keep measuring the reduced waste and always remember to be the visible ambassador of a Lean culture.   

Nine Feet Tall are proven experts in designing and delivering complex change projects. If we can help you to define and deliver a lean culture within your organisation please contact:

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