Rebecca Banquette, a recently hired executive coach and Lean consultant at a staffing firm in the health care industry, has experienced a change in her Lean management philosophy and approach. Previously, she focused heavily on Lean's technical process-improvement aspects, but after a period of personal exploration and growth, she has decided to focus first and primarily on the development of people.
In this case, Banquette explains and reflects on her methods for utilizing Lean tools—including the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, the A3 structured problem-solving process, and gemba walks—to create standard work in developing leaders. She also uses a holistic framework to provide focus to her development activities, including helping others ask the right questions and building personal qualities such as humility and courage. In doing so, she commits to being the type of coach who refrains from providing answers or direct advice. Instead, she presents new information and ideas and then supports her executives by asking questions designed to build self-reflection skills.
This case is both a leadership-development story and a creative application of Lean tools in a context that supports the development of robust people. Just as a process is described as robust when it can accept a wide range of inputs and produce a consistent output, people can also be described as robust when they respond flexibly to competing and ever-changing circumstances and still produce consistent results. By utilizing the concept of standard work in a leadership-development setting, we codify the process of developing people with an intentional, Lean-based framework, and we emphasize the critical, primary importance of robust people in the overall operations of an organization.