Hiring for “Lean”

Hiring for “Lean”
by Victor Yamauchi
Being in a culture of resource efficient people, we at NATEL have our ears perked for ideas on how to create a more lean culture and tactics that will eliminate waste. There are numerous mailers with fantastic tips in your inbox daily, tips such as how to arrange your razor and toothbrush in the morning or how the latest table will make your day more productive. We have become hyperaware of the abuse of terms like Lean and TPS, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in resumes.
When our HR department sees a resume for a lean change agent with Toyota experience, it does get noticed. In fact, several of our senior leaders spent some part of the career working with Toyota, including myself. But as we bring in new candidates, we have noticed the Harvard phenomena – where even at Ivy League universities you have a top 10% and bottom 10% of each class. And the variety of candidates is not just about effective candidates but also their preferred methodologies. There are candidates who move slowly and build cultures, asking a lot of questions along the way. There are candidates who are well versed in tactics and can’t wait to get on the floor and do it all themselves. There are people who feel more at home in the classroom. And these candidates would do well working for some company in the world.
It is disheartening to meet candidate after candidate who may be very talented but is not a hands-on leader. Too many people working in US corporations feel more comfortable with motivation than with inspiration.
The honest truth is that a formal lean training and real-world experience is valuable, but no more valuable than the candidate who is curious and humble, the subtle leader who does not need a suggestion box because people are eager to share their improvement ideas in person. One of the things that makes me effective is that I am not an expert. I am a practitioner and I am constantly apprenticing from the people on the line who do the work. Sudesh Arora may be one of the leanest people you can meet and he will often boast about being able to find any letter or email within 30 seconds. And he did not come out of Toyota. He did not study lean. He just believed that things could be done better, and then did it better.
Please share your thoughts on hiring talented people who truly think lean.

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