Senior Management Lean Practice : A Team-Based Approach to Facilitate Learning

Abstract: In order to improve organizational performance, organizations within both production and servicesectors keep turning to the Lean concept with hopes of finding a productive approach to theirchallenges. This tendency appears to remain in spite of reports indicating that the Lean concept isfar from easy to develop, implement and sustain. Research estimates that as much as 90 percent ofcompanies do not reach the goals they aspire to when trying to implement Lean. Leadership andmanagement are pointed out as key enablers for Lean development. It appears, however, that theseareas prove most difficult and also contain gaps in literature and research. Lean and organizationallearning have been presented as highly correlated. Since social practice and organizational crossfunctional cooperation are central activities within organizational learning, cross-functionalmanagement teams are of interest. Based on this background, the purpose of this thesis is to furtherthe understanding of requirements on senior management in Lean development. The purpose isattained by analyzing a team-based management approach to Lean practice and competencedevelopment, and investigating how that approach relates to organizational performance. Thethesis approaches the Lean concept by means of an organizational learning perspective. Its casestudy approach was conducted at a large, international manufacturing company. In the thesis, asequenced and team-based management approach developed by the studied company is describedand discussed. As a final step, this approach is evaluated according to what improvements couldbe found regarding key performance indicators such as delivery precision and safety within thestudied organization. The results from the included studies show that managerial Lean competencedevelopment is centered around a number of main factors. These include the initial definition ofLean within the organization, the process of leading with action in a new way of working, and thecollective experimenting and cross-functional cooperation within management teams.Furthermore, the target breakdown and follow-up process is found to be a viable, central approachto people involvement and competence development within the organization. The importance ofmanagement taking active part in the organizational learning process, acting as enablers and rolemodels by exercising a specific leadership style rather than just being considered as administrationfor the development process, is pointed out as central. Results indicate that areas within thecompany where cross-functional management teams have systematically practiced the sequenced,team-based approach over time perform better in areas such as health and safety and deliveryprecision. The main conclusions are that collective cross-functional practice within managementfunctions is a key factor for Lean management development, and that an understanding oforganizational learning in change efforts such as Lean development may be considered beneficialfor organizations. Specifically, the thesis concludes that the balancing of leadership andmanagement, or mechanistic and organic features within an organization, related to organizationallearning is of importance.