Four Ways to Impress a Lean ManagerFor workers accustomed to traditional management, it may seem difficult or even impossible to stand out in a Lean environment. The traits that impressed prior supervisors make nary a ripple. Particularly for those transitioning into manufacturing from a different industry, this phenomenon causes frustration.

Lean managers may seem indifferent, but that perception could not be farther from the truth. In reality, they are big-picture thinkers continually evaluating and reexamining many aspects of their direct reports' performance. To impress a Lean manager, you must excel within the framework of Lean thinking.

Four Ways to Impress a Lean Manager

Learn Lean Philosophy and Vocabulary

Employees new to Lean may find "muda," "kaizen," and other Lean management terms incomprehensible. Resist the impulse to resent others for speaking in language unfamiliar to you. Instead, take time to research the history of Lean. There are many books on this subject that can be read free online.

Not only will learning about Lean make it easier for you to convey your existing strengths and ideas, it will lead you to new insights. Combine the unique experience you bring to your new position with Lean ideals and philosophies. Soon, you will find your managers noticing how you use your skill sets to enhance Lean procedures.

Identify Waste

As you adapt to a Lean environment, keep a watchful eye out for sources of waste. If you have an idea that would reduce, for example, unnecessary movement, speak up immediately. In Lean environments, all employees are encouraged to share their observations to save time and money for the business. You will stand out both for the practical benefits of your idea and for your understanding of waste reduction's importance.

Timing, Timing, Timing

Lean managers work on a tight schedule, demonstrating to their direct reports that they are willing to hold themselves to the same high level of efficiency they expect from others. Emergencies excepted, it is best to avoid interrupting a Lean manager's strictly timed routines. Even the best idea you've ever had can probably wait until your supervisor is scheduled to be available.

Ask when it is best to contact your manager each day. Suggest sharing an Outlook calendar that lists "open door" hours when you can have unscheduled check-ins. Alternately, ask permission to place an appointment on your manager's calendar for a daily 10-minute conversation.

Find Efficiencies in Your Work

One guaranteed way to impress a Lean manager: Take six hours to complete work that took your predecessor eight hours, without allowing quality to suffer. If you can find a way to do your own job more efficiently, your manager will wonder what other efficiencies you might find, if empowered to do so.

After completing your assigned work more efficiently than usual, wait for your manager to be available and ask for additional duties. Avoid vague phrasing like, "Is there anything else I can work on?" If possible, suggest a specific task that you know is especially important to your manager.