Continuous Improvement in Logistics: Mastering Lean Leadership

William Botha, Roche Group, shares insight on how to establish a culture of quality across your organization

William Botha, Operational Excellence Principal at Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, spoke to Process Excellence Network to share his insights on lean leadership.

In this interview, he offers ideas on what it takes to be a successful lean leader, the importance of senior leadership commitment and utilizing deonstrated training to establish a culture of quality across the organization. 

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In logistics, effciiency and process excellence are required to ensure the supply chain runs smoothly, both on budget and on time. With the additional complexity that pharmaceuticals bring to the supply chain, it is vital to ensure that you are focused on continuous improvement to build best in class processes. 

"There are certain principles that have been around for thousands of years that can’t be broken. We say that a journeyman knows which rules to follow, a master knows that you can break some of those rules, as long as you adhere to the principles".


What are the critical factors for developing a culture of continuous improvement?

You need three things: senior leadership commitment, senior leadership commitment, and senior leadership commitment. That isn’t facile you can do the methodology and stick to the schedule, but if you don’t have the senior leaders committed to the program, it will fail. Their commitment is evidenced by their behavior and by their input.


How do we create a sustainable senior leadership engagement?

JP Carter gives us the answer to that one has to form a coalition. That doesn’t have to be his entire team, but the critical mass of influencers that have faith in the vision and have started to demonstrate their intent to follow that. How they do they take that to next level of detail? They need to sell their vision and support the emotional benefits being where that vision takes them. They do this by coaching, that’s why I am a coach here at Genentech. By taking that core team and exposing them to training courses, and that most wonderful engine of all which is the kaizen.

The kaizen is a microcosm of a senior leadership team, and it generates huge amounts of energy when it’s done properly builds your emotional credibility for the change within the organization. It is exposure to this new culture and also the injection of this change energy into the senior leadership team through what we are now calling it at Genentech, the Kaizengine of culture change.


What is the Leanership model?

The Leanership model is three things. It’s the leadership behaviors, such as commitment, questioning and debate. The intent of a leader should be how to do it, not whether they should do it or not. They have to take action. Commitment is like a free-fall parachutist who is out in the air. Commitment is not planning, which a lot of big shot teams do. They spend a lot of time visualizing and planning, but they actually never get to the door. Also important is the peer commitment to one another, to hold each other responsible for this new set of behaviors, Socratic questioning, guidance, Gemba walks and Genchi Genbutsu.

The second part, I have borrowed from the field of management information systems. It’s called management control systems and it’s the nervous system of a plane going down and changing shape as it goes down through each level of organisation, becoming more granular and more specific the lower the get-down from the mahogany corner office to the Gemba where the actual product is touched and made better.

Each level has its own specific set of plans for the shift, day, week or month, the controls to make sure a plan is being executed correctly by team and reaction planning, and then reporting upwards to inform the superior level in terms of hierarchy, of how their plans are going and so that they can then take timely remedial action to prevent hitting the wall at the end of the month.

The third element of the Leanership model, is the adaptive tools. Only use the tools that are relevant to the workforce when they need them. One of the tools that you should not use is classroom training.

The 'Leanership model' has three elements; leadership behaviours, management control systems and adaptive tools

The most powerful deployments that I have done over the last four years have been demonstrated training. We use the TWI model, which is training with an industry. This was created in the Second World War when the US had to motivate and mobilise its female workforce and younger adults into industry to produce the bullets for the men who had now left industry to go fight the war and we use that model.

The model is to first explain while you’re at the Gemba, what’s going to happen, then demonstrate it. In other words, you demonstrate the job to the person, and then you step aside and let them experiment with the task while you are there to make sure they don’t make a big mistake, then you give them immediate feedback. Notice we don’t use the word constructive criticism, it’s redirective feedback, because you must start with the assumption that the person does not want to fail, so it can’t be criticism. They are already expending energy, all you need to do is redirect it. So they direct their energy and their emotion in the direction that’s going to give a good result, and then you gradually step away.


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