Some say the primary role of management in a lean environment is talent development or removing roadblocks; others feel the key role of a good manager is to set examples and deliver results at any cost. Different management styles cultivate different cultures, so it is important for companies to be conscious and thoughtful about their collective management style.

In a lean environment, the organisational pyramid is flipped. It is understood that most significant contributions come from those adding the value to customers. In a manufacturing environment, the shop floor is at the top of the organisation’s hierarchy. To capture the opportunities the experts on the shop floor have to offer, a successful manager must earn the hearts and minds of employees before they can be successful.

Winning hearts and minds

Earning hearts suggests that a trusting and respectful relationship has been developed. Toyota emphasised this by including ‘respect for people’ as one of their core values. NextPhase Medical Devices recognises this relationship by including ‘teamwork’ in its core values. When there are respectful and trusting relationships between colleagues – employee and employer, customer and supplier, supervisor and supervisee – the energy of team members can be focused on productive endeavours rather than on negotiating a complex relationship. There is no time or effort spent on conflicts that can result from distrustful relationships. If team members trust and respect one another, their defences subside and ideas flow freely – without fear of judgment or penalty. Prioritising and capitalising on this approach is at the heart of a continuous improvement operation.

Winning minds suggests that everyone’s attention is focused on a common goal. If managers can articulate and effectively communicate a common purpose that can be understood and owned by all, it will set the tone and the underlying direction of the company. Earning minds with a clear and tangible purpose therefore becomes a primary motivator and can provide a basis for every decision. Team members can operate with more autonomy, making the operation more efficient and boosting individual morale and confidence.

A lean sustainment system

It takes time, credible actions, and consistency to earn hearts and minds; and once accomplished, it will require maintenance to sustain. In addition to day-to-day human interaction, NextPhase Medical Devices employs several tools in maintaining hearts and minds. An interactive strategic deployment process ensures the company’s purposes and goals are communicated to all. Key objectives are established, and every employee plays a role – and maintains a stake in achieving them. Metrics supporting the goals posted throughout the facility are available for anyone to see, and weekly all-hands-on company communication meetings review a company’s objectives, monitor developments, and promote open communication in all levels of management and employees.

Once they have earned hearts and minds and put in place a sustainment system, managers can effectively pursue their roles, and the company has set the stage for an environment of continuous improvement.

A high-quality partner

NextPhase Medical Devices is the leading low to medium-volume outsource partner for complex electronic manufacturing systems and single-use medical devices in North America.

NextPhase offers medical device design, development, contract manufacturing, and assembly services for Class I, II, and III single-use and EMS medical devices. With a focus on lean manufacturing, and strategically located domestic and nearshore manufacturing facilities, NextPhase is positioned and committed to providing the highest-quality services at the lowest cost.