Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lean methodologies and employee development

I've been chatting with some of the experts in the field of Lean methodologies, leadership development and change mangement, to understand the relationship between Lean & Agile methodologies and employee development. I'm trying to understand if there truly is a relationship between Lean, the development of software to improve processes with agile methodologies such as Scrum, and enabling people to perform (as individuals, managers and in teams) better through employee development, or if the the only training and experience Lean wants to give employees is how to implement Lean better.

[Feb 25, 2010 - I just added a related video at the end of this post - short and to the point. Thanks to Mike Leamon for this.]

As I look at various sources of information on Lean, especially comparing it to the Toyota Production System, it seems to me that despite all the talk about the importance of teamwork, respect for opinions, and development of specialists, the process improvement methodologies actually ignore a large part of what can make organizations better - employee development. In so many examples I have read, the training side of a Lean project is not about making people better employees, better teamworkers, better leaders; it becomes assumed that through indoctrination in the Lean way, you will do these things naturally. There must be a thousand attributes of how people could be enabled to work better, without improvement of their processes, that Lean must miss.

Please don't get me wrong - I believe Lean is a powerful methodologies for making processes operate better and Agile is a powerful methodology for implementing software to further assist in the transformation. But Lean is not intended to be a completely holistic program for change in an organization. Therefore there is a distinct chunk of business improvement that is being missed by not addressing the performance and traits of employees and leaders outside of (or maybe it is alongside) the process. Is this a perception industry? Do people care about employee development, or are they just workers in a process that we can swap in and out at will?

Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated...

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