Hiring a Lean Manager: Tips for Conventional ManagersWhen a company or department is not succeeding, leadership may elect to bring in a Lean manager. This often leaves a panel of conventional managers striving to hire a Lean manager.

But how can one evaluate a candidate's knowledge of a management paradigm that one does not practice?

In an ideal world, everyone hiring for a position would understand the duties and priorities entailed.

In the real world, many new positions are created to fill a gap in an organization; therefore, the nature of hiring is that it will involve interviewing and evaluation of candidates by someone who is not experienced in the duties of the new position.

Conventional managers can hire Lean managers, provided they come to the process prepared.

To Hire a Lean Manager, Know the Vocabulary

Prepare to hire a Lean manager by learning the discipline's specialized vocabulary. Do you know your kaizen from your muda? Your TPS from your NPS?

If not, do not start interviewing.

Lean management vocabulary is important in order to catch candidates exaggerating their insight by using jargon. Any talented Lean manager can explain the same concepts without Lean management specific language, but inexperienced or unskillful interviewees may lean on "concept-dropping."

Ask the Right Questions

Some conventional managers interviewing a Lean manager ask fairly standard questions, such as, "How would you find efficiencies in our company?" or "What has been your biggest challenge as a Lean manager?"

Unfortunately, these questions are so frequently asked as to be meaningless.

Instead, try to draw out the candidate's individual approach to Lean.

Consider pulling up a recent news story about Lean management success and asking interviewees to tell you why Lean helped that company. Ask the candidate to share a story about taking a risk in order to ensure that a Lean idea was implemented; then ask detailed followup questions about that experience. Consider asking an employee to participate by role playing a conversation with the candidate in which the interviewee explains a change in the employee's work to increase efficiency.

Walk the Shop Floor (Even if You Don't Have One)

Many successful Lean managers have been known for simply walking the manufacturing floor, observing how employees work and greeting them. Lean management succeeds best when every employee is empowered to create efficiency. This stems from an authentic connections with leadership.

If at all possible, take your candidate to the place where the heavy lifting happens, whether it's cubicles at a software company or an automotive parts assembly line. Observe the interviewee's eyes—is he looking at equipment operators' hands for unnecessary motion? Is she looking at office furniture for repetitive motion injury risks?

Watch also how he or she connects with employees to whom he or she is introduced. Do they appear to develop an immediate rapport with your interviewee? Or is the candidate perceived as an outsider and a risk to job security?

The ideal Lean manager cannot be afraid to make cuts, but he or she will never come across as cavalier or gleeful about that difficult decision.