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Lean Leadership Case Study: Importance of Team Empowerment

Question

Task: The lean leadership case study for this assignment is ‘Leadership in Lean, Empowering Manufacturing Organisations’, describing the intricacies of an optimisation project through team empowerment in a lean manufacturing environment.

You are encouraged to do your own research, but the following article is mandatory reading: Carroll, B., 2001. Leadership in Lean, Empowering Manufacturing Organisations.Journal of Organisational Excellence, Vol 20, Issue 2, P. 81-90, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

The CEO of a broadband internet service provider has read the case study article and was most impressed by the efficiency improvement through team empowerment. She wants to implement the short-cycle manufacturing concept to broadband installation projects in her company but cannot get her senior management team to buy into the idea. They tell her it will not work for their projects, but the CEO suspects the real reason is that they worry that team empowerment will greatly reduce their importance in the organization.

Your team has been hired as consultant to manage this transition. The CEO wants you to help convince the senior management team by providing a brief study on leadership competencies and management control systems required for the new, intended disposition of the company, based on the given case study and materials covered in this Unit

Answer

1. Introduction
Managers and leaders are hired within various business organizations so that the productivity and the efficiency of the managerial setup can perform up to its optimum levels. Within the working community of various business organizations, a common phenomenon exists where the management sets clear sets of guidelines and objectives as to how the managers and leaders must implement strategies that ensure such objectives are being met according to the proposed set of guidelines (Hahm, 2017). The leaders within the business organizations aim to set up long term goals and objectives whereas the managers implement their power of authority to oversee the daily operations with respect to the proposed set of guidelines that are provided to them. Hence; within the working community, a predominant work culture exists that caters to a sense of the chain of command (Rao, 2015). The individuals who are known to be the managers and leaders set up a particular chain of command through which they can establish a sense of authority within the working community where they feel that a form of supervision and order is necessary for the working community to perform in an effective and efficient manner. Therefore, such forms of chain of command have established a form of negligence and lack of self-awareness within the common mindset of the people that restricts them to perform the daily tasks as per the set of guidelines provided; and minimal amounts of creativity and innovative thinking are catered by the employees (Iqbal, 2020). It is the utmost duty of the management of the business organizations to ensure that the working community that they adhere to is self-sustaining in nature and can perform the delivered set of tasks with utmost certainty and minimal supervision. Leaders and managers should not only direct and control but they must also encourage the empowerment of their teams within the working community so that they can help in the innovative decision-making process of the management; as such workers within the working community have hands-on experience regarding the daily operations within the business organization and can aim to provide essential insights that help the decision-making process of the management and save up on incremental operational costs (Liu, 2015).

This report aims to discuss the importance of self-empowerment of the teams within the working community so that they can perform their desired set of activities within the business organization of a broadband internet service provider. The management of the company feels that the process of self-empowerment will pave the way for the downfall of authority within the organization but this report provides a strategic analysis based on the leadership theories and its implications that help to empower the working teams to achieve organizational success. This report is addressed towards the senior management team of the broadband internet service provider so that the management can understand the importance of self-directed teams which was previously overthrown by them. The certain key risks and recommendations have also been provided in this report that aims to implement self-directed teams within the working community of the broadband internet service provider.

2. Analysis of the contemporary styles of leadership
2.1 The need for change in leadership styles

The case study shows that after two years of no organizational change and stagnant efficiency levels of the workers within the organization, it was necessary to implement a managerial change through which such inefficiencies can be eliminated (Ciulla, 2020). The operations manager noticed that the instructions of the manufacturing process which were allotted to the workers were too long and complex. Often the images of the designs were unclear due to which such instances led to the occurrence of errors. The rigid management system of the company made the workers timid and they did exactly what was told to them; the workers did not feel the right to change what was wrong without the prior consultation of a manager.

Overall, the workers were not motivated enough to step out of their boundaries within the working community as they had to follow a typical chain of command through which their aspects for self-improvisation lacked severely (Jiang, 2016). The managers must train, motivate, and empower workers to form a highly trained self-directed team of workers besides managing daily worker's activities. Therefore the autocratic form of leadership style was changed into a democratic one (Jiang, 2016).

2.2 Alignment of leadership theories
The form of organizational change that the business organization had undergone in the case study demonstrates a shift of an autocratic leadership style to a democratic leadership style. Initially, the autocratic form of leadership style adhered to by the business organization resulted in a rigid managerial system that catered to a streamlined chain of command where the workers of the organization followed the orders directed towards them without improvising their own skills and decision making (Grille, 2015). The workers felt comfortable being a part of such a chain of command and followed it accordingly even when they knew that the electronic boxes specifications were wrong. Such instances led to an increased number of errors and incremental operational costs for the business. The change from an autocratic form of leadership to a democratic one, allowed the various departmental heads to share their differences in opinions and the problems that they faced within the working community (Grille, 2015). Workers were more focused on increasing their efficiency levels as the work processes were carried out smoothly due to the implementation of the short cycle manufacturing process. The workers began to offer innovative ideas whereas they previously followed defective instructions. Hence, two forms of leadership styles can be analyzed from the case study; autocratic and democratic leadership style.

Advantages and disadvantages in leadership case study

Figure 1: Advantages and disadvantages of Autocratic and democratic leadership styles
Source: Karriker, 2017

3. Skills and competencies required in the PMI talent triangle
3.1 Key competencies in the technical project management

The operations department of the broadband internet service provider requires certain competencies to form an effective and efficient technical project management structure. The two key competencies required by the operations team are:

3.1.1 Sound technical knowledge
Apart from the set of manufacturing specifications that are provided to the workers, the employees in the technical department should also have basic knowhow regarding the services provided by the broadband internet services company (Ciulla, 2020). The workers must be able to understand what the information technology department wants out of them and understand the specifications of their product designs so that instances of errors within the workplace community are reduced and customer satisfaction can be increased (Newman, 2017).

3.1.2 Ability to communicate
Sine business organizations that cater to a rigid form of management comprise of employees who are susceptible to follow orders; creates a form of communication gap where the employees do not feel the necessity to share their thoughts and opinions regarding the problems that they face within the working community (Lee, 2018). Hence, the technical management team must be able to properly communicate with each other and let the top to down management know about the operational inefficiencies which can be improved within the business organization. The ability to communicate helps the workers to develop a form of interpersonal relationship through which the organizational efficiency can be improved (Liu, 2015).

3.2 Key competencies in strategic and business management
The key competencies required by the divisional managers of the broadband internet service company towards effective strategic and business management are the following:

3.2.1 Delegation
The divisional managers of the broadband internet service company need to properly delegate the necessary tasks in such a manner so that the workers within the business organization can perform up to their optimum levels with minimum results of errors (Liu, 2015). The managers must ensure a proper streamlined process through which the tasks can be divided into various departmental heads and engage in proper decision-making skills through delegating necessary tasks and operations within the working community (Liu, 2015).

3.2.2 Problem solving
One of the most important aspects that the managers within the business organization must carter to is the effective and efficient process of problem-solving. An organization that provides broadband internet connectivity services often face numerous complaints regarding slow internet speed, incorrect bandwidth usage, and various network errors due to technical glitches (Wang, 2016). Hence, the managers must have the competency to understand the type of problems that the customers face and segment them into a fine process where the analysis of problems are identified quickly and resolved by the company (Wang, 2016). Problem-solving skills are one of the most important skills required by business management experts within the working community (Liu, 2015).

3.3 Key competencies in the leadership
The stakeholders of the broadband internet service company are the owners and partners of the business organization. Therefore, such individuals or groups of individuals are the leaders of the business organization as they establish long term goals and objectives for the management of the business. The key competencies in leadership are the following:

3.3.1 Team building
A leader must possess an innate quality that helps them to differentiate the different organizational tasks within the working community. A leader must essentially map out the various departmental heads that a business organization adheres to and set proper teams within the various departmental heads through which the tasks can be completed effectively and efficiently (Yu et al., 2018). A leader must establish a proper vision and mission statement through which they can build relationships through the formation of teams and empower such individuals within the teams to be self-aware and motivated at all times (Krog, 2015). The leaders within a working community must learn to coordinate and cooperate with the management so that the teams can effectively communicate within the organization to avoid instances of uncertainty and miscommunication (Yu et al., 2018).

Advantages and disadvantages in leadership case study

Figure 2: PMI Talent Triangle
Source:Krog, 2015

4. Eliminating lack of direction and control
4.1 Implementation of the new lean environment

Since the company has previously experimented with agile, self-directed teams and moderately failed in the process due to lack of direction and control, the management of the business organization can aim to adhere to the following three control systems:

4.1.1 Communication
A proper lean setup within the management of the business organization requires a proper strain of communication within the top to bottom managerial structure. The company can aim to make fewer errors and improve the efficiency of the workers if the workers are allowed to communicate freely and share their thoughts and opinions based on the problems and inefficiencies that they face within the working community (Krog, 2015). The workers are the best source to understand the key areas in which a business can improve its operations and understand such key aspects; an effective communications system needs to be established within the working community (Rapp et al., 2016).

4.1.2 Time
The main aspect of catering towards a lean production method is to eliminate the different sorts of wastes that exist within the working community; and such wastes can also be in the form of underutilization of talent and wastage of time (Ahmad, 2018). The leaders and managers probably failed to establish a form of direction and control due to the lack of a proper time management system. Managers and leaders within the business organization must ensure that the management carters to a particular process of time management where the tasks are completed within a specific period of time through which the inefficiencies of the workers can be eliminated and the elimination of the inefficiencies would result in fewer instances of errors within the operations of the business organization (Chen et al., 2019).

4.1.3 Quality
One of the key aspects of achieving organizational success is to cater to a form of quality management through which the services provided by the business can generate the utmost customer satisfaction. If the business organization aims to achieve proper customer satisfaction levels then the company can enhance its brand recognition and market share within the business community (Pradarelliet al., 2016). The quality checks would help the lean framework to be analyzed in such a manner that lean management would portray the short time span of manufacturing of products without hampering the quality. Often by catering to a lean framework; instances of elimination of wastage of time will result in the manufacturing of faulty products due to the time constraint factors (Pradarelliet al., 2016). Therefore the quality checks by the supervisors will help the management of the business to improve their production methods and improve efficiency levels.

4.2 Chosen lean framework
The chosen lean framework for the aforementioned control systems is the Lean 5S Tool for improvement. This particular lean framework caters to a five-part process: Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. The communication process helps the management of the business organization to sort the key set of activities that need to be adhered to by the business and helps to set them in a particular order through an effective team-building process which is to be carried out by the managers and leaders (Sousa, 2016). The time management control system helps the business organization to standardize and sustain where the desired set of activities carried out by the business organization occurs in an effective and efficient manner. Finally, through the process of quality management; the business can aim to shine as the quality of products that the business organization provides meets the standards and expectations of the customers which as a result improves the brand recognition of the organization (Sousa, 2016).

Advantages and disadvantages in leadership case study

Figure 3: The 5S Lean Tool framework
Source: Sousa, 2016

5. Risks and response plan
The top five key risks that may emerge through the transition process are the following:

  • Training the leaders
    Response plan: Leaders believe that they possess a form of innate quality that separates them from the rest of the individuals within the working community. While this may be true, the leaders must learn to understand what they want to accomplish or establish within the working community. Often the leaders establish guidelines through which the desired organizational change can be brought about but when the plan fails, the leaders feel as if the plan failed due to the inefficiencies attached with the workers in the organization (Fausing, 2015). Hence, the implementation of a new short-cycle manufacturing process would require the leaders to be trained as well, where they gather market surveys and forecast essential data within the business organization. If the leaders are trained well then they can aim to create future leaders within the business organization by increasing the motivation levels of the workers (Javed, 2017). Leaders may often feel undervalued when they have to be a part of a training session but it acts as a refreshers course for the leaders through which they can aim to improve their managerial effectiveness (Javed, 2017).
  • Understanding the vision
    Response plan: Often when a new form of system or process is incorporated within the business organization, the individuals within the working community fail to understand the importance of it. Without knowing the purpose and the essential factors associated with the new form of managerial change within the organization results in instances of miscommunication and conflicts (Pentareddy, 2015). Hence, the leaders and managers must always aim to justify their mission statements through which the workers can understand the key aspects through which they can generate a sense of positive organizational change within the working community (Murari, 2015).
  • Team building and training
    Response plan: Organizational excellence can only be obtained when there is a form of cooperation and coordination among the individuals within the working community. When such individuals can aim to cooperate with their peers, the team efficiency levels increase for which the productivity of the business organization also improves as well (Kukenberger, 2015). Workers who were accustomed to following a rigid chain of command often fail to establish a form of communication with the management where they do not share the problems encountered by them within the organization; this is why a proper team building and team training is necessary so that the workers can live up to their potential within the working community (Karriker, 2017).
  • Setting up a baseline
    Response plan: The aim of the short cycle manufacturing process aims to increase the productivity levels of the business organization and for such improvements, the management must gather essential data and productivity measurement tools where the change in the managerial structure can be observed (Chiu, 2016). Whether the changes establish imply a positive or a negative outcome is an essential aspect through which the management can judge the feasibility of the new plan and engage in a proper decision-making process where the business can grow and diversify.
  • The reduced importance of senior leaders
    Response plan: Through the aforementioned response plans, the business organization can aim to develop self-sustaining and empowered team workers within the working community where such teams can develop innovative decision-making skills through which they can constantly avoid the need to seek approval from the top management (Dust et al., 2018). The improved efficiency and productivity levels can create a sense of reduced importance for the leaders of the business organization where the managers and leaders must be ensured that their authority within the working community remains unchanged (Shin et al., 2016). The top to bottom management structure must be framed in such a manner where there is minimal need for supervision but the senior leaders have the final say about the key decision-making aspects within the business organization.

6. Recommendations and conclusion
The broadband internet service company can aim to empower their workers through effective team building, quality, and time management where the leaders can establish a proper communication system that addresses the needs and problems of the workers within the working community. The 5S tool of lean framework can be an essential model through which the business organization can establish a proper chain of direction and control which had earlier failed. The key competency skills discussed in this report must be adhered to by the departmental heads through proper training and developmental programs. This report has analyzed the key aspects through which the workers can be empowered within a working community where they develop key skills through which they can perform at optimum levels of efficiency without the prior supervision from their leaders and managers.

References
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Chen, G., Smith, T. A., Kirkman, B. L., Zhang, P., Lemoine, G. J., &Farh, J. L. (2019). Multiple team membership and empowerment spillover effects: Can empowerment processes cross team boundaries?. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(3), 321.

Chiu, C. Y. C., Owens, B. P., &Tesluk, P. E. (2016). Initiating and utilizing shared leadership in teams: The role of leader humility, team proactive personality, and team performance capability. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(12), 1705.

Ciulla, J. B. (2020). Leadership and the problem of bogus empowerment. In The Search for Ethics in Leadership, Business, and Beyond (pp. 177-195). Springer, Cham.

Dust, S. B., Resick, C. J., Margolis, J. A., Mawritz, M. B., &Greenbaum, R. L. (2018). Ethical leadership and employee success: Examining the roles of psychological empowerment and emotional exhaustion. The Leadership Quarterly, 29(5), 570-583.

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Hahm, S. (2017). Information Sharing and Creativity in a Virtual Team: Roles of Authentic Leadership, Sharing Team Climate and Psychological Empowerment. KSII Transactions on Internet & Information Systems, 11(8).

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Javed, B., Khan, A. A., Bashir, S., &Arjoon, S. (2017). Impact of ethical leadership on creativity: the role of psychological empowerment. Current Issues in Tourism, 20(8), 839-851.

Jiang, X., Flores, H. R., Leelawong, R., &Manz, C. C. (2016).The effect of team empowerment on team performance. International Journal of Conflict Management.

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