One of the key factors in the success of any lean implementation is your people and more specifically the supervisors within the business.

Why are Supervisors so important?

While the CEO and senior managers might run the business and be on the Lean Project Team, the supervisors are on the shop floor working with your employees and products for eight hours a day. They answer questions, identify and solve problems, coach employees and drive productivity which ensures targets are met. They also have the important job of managing communications between employees and senior management.

However many supervisors are not selected because of their management abilities, they are often chosen because of their time in the company, reliability or abilities in a factory floor role. Once an employee is promoted to supervisor, many companies don’t provide the management training they need to transition into the role of supervisor, this is a huge mistake and a missed opportunity. Supervisors that haven’t been properly trained as managers often aren’t able to effectively move from a worker/firefighter position into the role of manager and teacher.

When supervisors are thrust into the role after working on the factory floor it can be quite daunting. They were often doing a process role, where they simply performed the same task over and over throughout the day. There was no need to think about other staff members or look at the whole department and how it was operating and identify problems.

Good supervisors need to understand more than just how to keep their department running smoothly. When supervisors are able to inspire their employees and help them to develop problem-solving skills their teams become highly engaged and keen to be involved in continuous improvement programs. They are high performers and more productive. These teams are a crucial element of any Lean implementation.

Managers also need to have problem solving and engagement capabilities so they can mentor and inspire supervisors. All leaders must focus on engagement in a continuous improvement environment. We often see managers that have moved up from the Supervisor level without any management training as well. It can, therefore, be challenging for them to provide supervisors working for them the support and mentoring they need.

Selecting the right people

Providing Supervisors with management training will certainly help them to become better leaders. Choosing employees for supervisory roles that are natural leaders will further ensure success. Look for people that are natural problem solvers and keen to see improvements. Employees that can look at the bigger picture and see how each individual contributes to outcomes often make great supervisors.

Driving Improvement

As Peter Drucker famously said, “what gets measured gets improved!” The same is true for supervisors, but what are the best performance measurements? It’s a good idea to align a supervisor’s measurement with your Lean goals. So the measurement of things like:

• Improving on-time delivery
• Daily production output for their section
• Improved efficiency/productivity of their team
• Input from their team in relations to identifying problems and solutions
• Reduced waste in their area
• Reduction in defects.

Supervisors are the gatekeepers of a business, they require management focus with on-going training to ensure they are able to perform effectively.

Corporate Partners provide a comprehensive new manager and supervisor training program that is designed to meet the needs of new leaders. This course introduces existing or potential supervisors and specialists to the fundamentals of the role of a supervisor whilst also providing exposure to structured systems and processes. Click here for more information.