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Lean Manufacturing First Line Supervision

Am I correct in assuming that during and after going lean that we will need fewer first line supervisors?

Anonymous Submission May, 2006 : Posted with consent

Good question. Unfortunately, downsizing is rather common upon implementing lean. However, the ratio of first line supervisors to employees is typically greater than before the transformation. Employees do assume more of a leadership role but even so, you need sufficient leadership at the 1st line supervisory level. Leadership at this level will become even more critical.

Under the guidance of a highly competent and skilled Value Stream Manager, broken down by product family, first line supervisors play an important role. I do not recommend reducing the number of personnel at that level.

Remember, in lean enterprise we have only two types of people. We have those that add value and those that directly support those that add value. These supervisors and employees absorb much of the leadership responsibilities. If levels of management personnel are to be reduced we must first look at mid-upper levels to determine to what extent they support the value-adding associates. If it is simply another slot filled for managing bureaucracy it is eliminated. That tends to generate a few grumblings, but only those that play an active role are actually necessary. Do we eliminate all middle managers? No, that is not the intent. But I can assure you as roles change, so do the number of layers in an organization. The structure in each organization is unique. Developing a lean system that works is slightly different in every organization.

Although highly advantageous, this will prove a difficult time for the organization. Having sufficient leadership and putting the right personnel in those positions is very important.

If an organization looks immediately to the first line supervisors if downsizing is needed it will prove a costly mistake.

I hope I have answered your question. If you would like an assessment and info session feel free to contact us.

Great question! Thank you.

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