Lean Roles

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

A Lean organization requires people to function in several roles. We will focus here on three main roles: sponsors, Lean champions (coaches), and Lean project leaders (LPLs).

Sponsors are business leaders who are responsible for selecting and scoping projects, selecting teams, removing obstacles, and sustaining project results. Sponsors will guide LPLs on projects by understanding progress, addressing risks, and removing obstacles as needed.

Lean champions are individuals who have a mastery of Lean tools and techniques. Champions coach, train, and mentor project leaders, and may lead high-value and Simple SOLVE projects, depending on the specific need.

Lean project leaders will lead Lean project teams in addition to their regular duties. A team of process experts will help the LPL execute each project. LPLs must accurately report project progress and elevate risks to the sponsor.

How to Apply It

  1. Once you understand how your role fits within the Lean program, work with your colleagues to begin the Lean process.
  2. Embrace continual learning beyond the classroom by reading reference material.
  3. Engage with champions to test your understanding.
  4. Sponsors should identify key stakeholder groups and prepare for managing change in the organization.
  5. Champions, LPLs and sponsors should discuss opportunities, project scoping, and progress.
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities cause confusion, which can lead to team conflicts or inaction.
  • Lean Champions lead by example; they take initiative to identity and solve problems.
  • Without clear expectations, it is difficult to maintain accountability.

Lean Roles and Responsibilities

General Expectations
  • Incremental improvements are better than no improvements
  • Lean methods/tools are used to create capacity (where people state they are too busy)
  • Lean is used to solve a wide variety of operational problems

Use Lean methods and tools as part of a career development:

  • Frontline employees learn effective problem solving skills
  • Managers can use Lean projects to help give their staff leadership opportunities
  • Leaders can use Lean to align and focus the organization’s operations
  • A Lean culture (culture of continuous improvement) takes 5 – 10 years to develop
  • Lean Champions lead by example; they take initiative to identity and solve problems.
  • Without clear expectations, it is difficult to maintain accountability.
Role
Responsibilities
Characteristics
Lean Champion
  • Coordinate Dept. Lean deployment
  • Allocate resources
  • Maintain master plan
  • Spearhead communications
  • Manage change
  • Understand Lean tools and techniques
  • Coach, train and mentor project teams and leaders
  • Current or future leader
  • Passion for change
  • Skilled diplomat and communicator
Sponsor
  • Select projects
  • Select teams
  • Charter projects
  • Remove obstacles
  • Sustain project results
  • Executive leader
  • Bias for action and results
  • Skilled communicator
  • Influencer
Lean Project Leaders
  • Lead Lean teams and projects X% of the time
  • Report progress and raise barriers
  • Respected within the organization
  • Strong communicator and organizer
  • Passion for improvement
Lean Team Members
  • Experts in the process who do the work
  • Will work together to design and implement solutions.
  • Typically, 6-9 team members
  • Represent all process steps