Five Lean Management Mistakes Made by LeadersLean management can seem deceptively simple--just cut costs, right?

In fact, Lean philosophies are infinitely complex, delving deeply into industrial/organizational psychology, business strategy, macroeconomics, and more.

One can work toward Lean through simple steps, but complete implementation calls for thoughtful, genuine leadership. Thinking comprehensively about it as an overarching state of mind will help you avoid these and other mistakes.

Five Lean Management Mistakes Leaders Make

Cuts that Create Inefficiency and Waste

Cost-cutting is a key benefit of Lean. However, some leaders forget to factor in the costs of inefficiency. Imagine workers are using expensive adjustable worktables. A new Lean manager replaces worn-out units with fixed height tables, saving thousands of dollars per workspace over time.

However, if this decision creates enough unnecessary movement to reduce plant efficiency by one percent, all the savings realized evaporate rapidly.

Always analyze sources of waste before cutting facilities expenses.

Turning Down Partnerships In Favor of Inefficient In-House Options

In a Management Today roundtable discussion, Fred Warren of Microsoft asks, "Why should a manufacturing company be running its own email system?"

Good question, Fred. Too many manufacturing companies, driven by the manufacturing ethos, insist upon doing as much as possible in-house.

Lean managers focus on improving these clunky initiatives, which don't speak to the core strengths of the business. In reality, a smart Lean manager should jettison such projects and instead develop strong partnerships with key service providers.

Failing to Get Stakeholders On Board

It is exciting to receive the opportunity to implement Lean in a new place. However, rushing this process may lead to disaster if key stakeholders are not on the same page.

Lean managers must be forthright and communicative at all levels of an organization. Often, employees will discover efficiencies missed by management experts, provided that employees are empowered.

Advancing without getting buy-in will lead to rumors and dysfunctional conflict.

Neglecting Supply Chain Efficiencies

If you have increased the efficiency of your manufacturing process by 10 percent, it is important to ensure your suppliers and retailers can keep up. An efficient assembly line does no good if it is stocked with insufficient materials or if additional manufactured units collect dust in a warehouse while shelf space remains unavailable.

Value stream mapping is critical to Lean implementation and cannot be overlooked.

Reorganizing a High-Performing Process or Team

Lean management calls for continuous improvement, but it does not call for the complete reorganization of highly functional teams and processes. Managers who inherit a struggling business are prone to judge all teams and processes by the failures of the company's business model. This overlooks highly efficient teams working within a dysfunctional structure.

Take time to examine the performance of teams you inherit. You may find that one supervisor has created a disciplined and highly efficient workforce, even within a failing organization. Interestingly, when these excelling teams are uncovered, they are often operating according to Lean principles without being prompted or instructed to do so!