Five Skills of a Lean Supervisor

These will help you be a better coach.

Supervisors have challenging jobs -- responding to management, assisting associates and team members, responding to challenges that may crop up in safety, quality and delivery. Their positions can be described at times as being between a rock and a hard place, says Mike Wroblewski.

Wroblewski, director of the Kaizen Institute USA, outlined the five skills of a lean supervisor in a recent webinar on a broader topic titled: "A Day in the Life of a Lean Supervisor."

He described the skills:

1. Knowledge of Work. A lean supervisor should know how all of the processes and all of the work in the area where he has responsibility -- inside and out and backward and forward, says Wroblewski. "All of the elements in the work should be known by the lean supervisor."

2. Knowledge of Job Responsibilities. The lean supervisor should understand, from a management perspective, what is expected of the role. He should know the company policies, work rules, union contracts if applicable. The supervisor should be skilled in what he needs to deliver from a management perspective.

3. Ability to Kaizen: The lean supervisor should have a "good foundation" of basic kaizen skills, including such tools as 5S, practical problem-solving, PDCA. "Those should all be comfortable skills within a lean supervisor," Wroblewski says.

4. Ability to Lead: The Kaizen Institute USA director points out the importance of this role: "[The associates'] first leader, their front-line leadership staff, is the key person who sets the culture of the company expectations."

5. Ability to Teach: This is possibly the most under-appreciated skill of a lean supervisor in most manufacturing companies that Wroblewski visits, he says. They are expected to enforce; better is the ability to teach.

Having, or developing such skills, is key to creating a team environment to pursue continuous-improvement objectives, he says.

The webinar was presented by the Gemba Academy.

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