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Getting Executive Buy-In

By Steve Kane Updated on November 21st, 2019

A common struggle in the lean community is the perception that if senior leadership doesn’t drive lean, then the rest of the organization can’t be lean.  As Masaaki Imai put it, the three most important requirements in embracing kaizen and lean are 1) top management commitment, 2) top management commitment, and 3) top management commitment.  All is not lost if these three most important requirements are lacking.


Before I suggest two potential countermeasures, remember that lean is a life-long journey.  Expect it to take time.

Create the Demand for Continuous Improvement

Ron shared with me his story of creating demand for kaizen from his boss at another organization earlier in his career.  Ron knew his boss reported up to higher level executives monthly on the happenings in his area of responsibility.  He provided an unsolicited slide deck highlighting improvements made during the month.  After a few months, the boss started expecting kaizen and kaizen reports.

Another idea from Ron is to ask the boss what struggles she’s dealing with, then go and see with your own eyes and PDCA.  Getting the results that matter to senior leadership will certainly matter.  Stick to your lean principles to get the job done.

Admittedly, creating the demand for continuous improvement results isn’t the same as transforming the boss into a lean thinker.  So, what the next course of action?

“Be the Leader You Want.”  ~ Simon Sinek

As mentioned earlier, a lean journey is long.  And, this next suggestion might take quite a bit of time for some readers.  The suggestion is to become the top manager who commits to lean.  We won’t change the world by trying to change other people.  We change the world by changing ourselves and helping others.  As the folks at AME put it, “Learn.  Share.  Grow.”

Those in the middle of an organization can employ lean thinking and methods within their areas of responsibility.  Patience and persistence will be crucial.  If you’re not interested in climbing the corporate ladder, perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to influence others who are.

  1. Rodney Robbins

    March 27, 2017 - 9:58 am

    This is one of the most important articles I have read here at the Gemba Academy Blog. To me, the idea isn’t to sell yourself more. The goal is to find more opportunities to be of service, by being of more service. Good job, Steve Kane.

  2. Steve Kane

    March 27, 2017 - 10:07 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Rodney!

  3. Chek Chung

    April 27, 2017 - 8:29 pm

    I know commitment from top management is absolutely the key for success. Not only on funding and time but literally to lead a Kaizen team and delivery results and doing the Gemba. The question is how and what approach can be injected to the organization to get what Masaki Imai quote “3 X Top Management Commitment”. Tq.

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