lean managementLean management works best when opportunities for continuous improvement bubble up from the bottom of an organization.

Every team member should be enthusiastic about evaluating his or her performance and comfortable speaking to a manager about enhancing product flow.

In order for this healthy organizational dynamic to thrive, senior management must listen to and empower team members at all levels.

As a lean manager, you may struggle to achieve cooperation from executives accustomed to a top-down organizational structure. Senior leadership may resist lean management altogether.

In other cases, executives embrace lean management, but attempt without finesse to become transformational champions. In the process, they alienate lower-level team members whose contributions are vital to successful implementation.

Talk to Traditional Managers about Lean Management

Lean managers brought in to save a failing company enter the boardroom, bark buzzwords such as "kaizen"  and "muda," and promise results that traditional management techniques did not deliver.

No one can empathize with executives who are guarded in their acceptance of lean management implementation. Nonetheless, reluctant executives must be brought on board during the lean implementation process.

Begin by highlighting past results. Follow up by inviting doubters to accompany you as you inspect a particular process and identify waste. Encourage traditional managers to view processes like a lean manager, starting with observation of unnecessary movement.

Soon, you  will see even vituperative naysayers expressing excitement as they notice opportunities to reduce repetitive motion.

Introduce Increased Accessibility

Traditionally, managers heavily restrict access to themselves and to privileged information. During lean management implementation, these walls must be lowered so team members at all levels feel empowered to improve.

Convince traditional managers by setting a powerful example through one-on-one and group meetings at all levels of the organization.

When existing executives see you producing enthusiasm and excitement from previously discouraged teams, they will become eager to replicate your success. Avoid involving yourself in struggles between managers. Encourage all leaders to reach out through their own chains of command and listen to suggestions.

Avoid Destructive Evangelism

Excessive enthusiasm can be as toxic as skepticism. Be wary of traditional managers who immediately reinvent themselves as lean management experts, without taking adequate time to learn or receiving formal training. Clumsy cheerleaders can jeopardize the transition by providing inaccurate information or by causing employees to perceive lean management as a transient managerial obsession.

Handle unwanted enthusiasts delicately. They likely believe they are helping to achieve company goals. Channel their energy into tasks that do not involve high-level communication about lean management. Provide opportunities for inexpert evangelists to work alongside established lean managers whenever possible, without overtly criticizing the manager's knowledge.

Direct Confrontation

It may be necessary to directly confront traditional managers who hamper lean management implementation. Ideally, conflict conversations should take place face-to-face.

Give your feedback concisely and with a strong focus on the company's needs, as opposed to individual wants. If possible, walk away having secured the other manager's commitment to collaborate  on a specific initiative.