Feb 16 2016

I recently read “The Gold Mine” by Freddy & Michael Ballé. It is a reasonable attempt to do with Lean what Eli Goldratt had done with “The Goal”, i.e. explain the concept of an improvement methodology by encapsulating it in a story. One of the things that stuck out to me in the book was the below paragraph.

“A Big Three line might have one supervisor and 50 to 80 people in the area. On the other hand, Toyota will have a team leader for every five to seven people on average, and a group leader for every three team leaders. Toyota has more supervision on the floor than a traditional workplace, and it’s proved to be far more efficient.” (p. 263)

Remember, the leaders role is to coach & develop their people. How can they do that if they have too many people to look after? Think about sports – The Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos (my home team!) have c. 23 coaches for 53 players; The current leaders in the English Premiership, Leicester have 5 coaches for 24 players. Are you investing at those levels to win, or scrimping to save a few £/$s?

With all the focus on cutting costs, too many organisations are thinning out the ranks of supervision without understanding the impact. In essence they leave the front line to fend for themselves and in most cases, without adequate support and/or systems to fall back on when problem arise. What’s worse, is that they also then expect the remaining supervisory staff, often with 20 or more direct reports, to manage all administrative tasks for their team AND spend the bulk of their day/shift at the Gemba.

I’m not suggesting that supervisors/managers should be the problem solvers for the front line, or handle all non-value adding tasks; their experience should be used to develop front line workers in making problems more obvious, solving problems & in sharing the knowledge gained from the solutions & the process. The leaders role is to coach; process improvement, waste or non-value added activity removal or reduction, problem solving, etc.

This won’t happen if the supervisory staff are spread too thin, if they have just enough time in their day to complete all the required administrative activity (Non-Value Adding) and limited time to spend on the shop floor, with their front line teams; observing, questioning and coaching to enable those front line teams to make their work (and hence the company’s performance) better.



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