The Arizona Management System, our intentional, results-driven approach to performance, sustainable progress and continuous improvement, is based on principles of Lean management. Lean’s principles of continuous improvement date back more than a century and have proven effective in reducing waste and improving service, productivity and efficiency in a host of industries, including government.
The Lean leadership behaviors embodied in AMS are meant to bridge the gap between Lean tools and Lean thinking. It is not enough for Arizona state employees to learn and master tools of visual management and problem solving; to operate at the speed of business, as Governor Ducey intends, requires a shift in our state government’s culture - i.e., “how we do things here.”
Author and Lean practitioner David Mann has written extensively on leadership’s connection to Lean organizational success. His view is that most Lean initiatives fail because leadership doesn’t change its practices. He writes:
“Sustained Lean success requires a change in mindset and behavior among leadership, and then gradually throughout the organization. Lean success occurs when senior leaders put appropriate structures and processes in place and get personally involved in sustaining Lean conversions, learning Lean, and developing other Lean thinking leaders throughout the enterprise.”
According to Mann, leadership at all organizational levels contributes critically to transformational success. Senior executives are responsible for building the governance structures and accountability mechanisms that ensure improvements flow naturally through horizontal, cross-boundary value streams. Functional managers are accountable for meeting project commitments and managing inter-sectional performance. Front line managers and supervisors tactically deploy the management system with disciplined adherence to standard work and using Lean tools as intended.
Mann points out that Lean management differs significantly from conventional leadership practices by emphasizing visibly observable discipline and accountability.
“Lean provides the templates and practices that enable leaders to learn, and then look for, ask about, and reinforce the leadership behaviors to sustain the gains.”
Eventually a Lean culture grows from this consistency and the ever-present pursuit of perfection.
To date, the italicized elements shown here have been featured in AMS In Focus.