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Effective Tips and Ways to Build and Manage a Lean Team

Many businesses, including SMEs and MNCs, are trying to improve productivity via setting up a lean team. But what is lean team? Why is it so important? How to build one? You can get all answers here.
lean team

Markets have become saturated and with the entry of every new entrant in the market, the threat of surviving in a competitive market becomes more intimidating.

So, in order to reduce the overall cost and increase productivity, organizations are trying to build a “lean team”.

In this article, we’ll define what is a lean team and explore more details associated with it to help you understand it, then, build one highly productive lean team.

What is A Lean Team?

The term ‘lean team’ has become a buzzword in the corporate world these days but surprisingly, most managers are unaware of it and know little about the true meaning of a lean team. So, what is a lean team anyway?

In literature, the lean team definition is elaborated by many authors in one way or another. However, all of those varying definitions have two things in common; integration of individuals and elimination of waste!

Lean teams are defined as a group of integrated individuals who work in a system that supports long-term improvement, redefines value, and eliminates waste to streamline the flow of information and deliverables.

The individual roles and responsibilities in a lean team are clearly defined and they know to whom they must respond. The communication levels are high and kept short to foster a quicker and smooth flow of information. This is how the waste is eliminated which makes an organization efficient and cost-effective.

Lean Team Structure

Lean teams work in a hierarchical structure that includes all the business levels. The hierarchy is kept flat in order to increase the efficiency of the flow of information. Different teams are assembled for achieving different objectives and they all work in sync to achieve common goals. Every team member reports to a Team Leader and every Team Leader of a specific group reports to a Group Leader.

Team members are encouraged to come up with their ideas and discuss them with their respective team leaders. Every team is responsible for solving problems in their assigned area of work. The team leaders then pass on the collective information to a group leader which is then conveyed to the top management in a more refined and presentable form.

Benefits of Building a Lean Team

Building a lean team not only gives your project more productivity but also brings a lot of benefits too. Here are some of the benefits that you get while building a lean team.

  1. Lean teams help in maximizing the efficiency of the projects which not only makes a project cost-effective but also provides value to the client.
  2. Lean teams help reduce waste associated with materials, time, and labor. By removing the bottlenecks, any operation can be made seamless.
  3. Lean teams value relationships both with clients and with the project team as well.
  4. Communication in lean teams is convenient. The organizational structure is made flat for better communication within a team.
  5. Lean teams help deliver the deliverables on time due to the fact that there are reduced bottlenecks to deal with.
  6. Lean teams are flexible and work in a system that evolves with time. It becomes easier for lean teams to adapt to rapid changes.

Challenges of Building a Lean Team

Building a lean team might fascinate you but there’s a lot that goes with it. Here are some possible challenges that you, being a project manager, might face while building a lean team.

  1. Building a lean team requires a lot of time for planning. You need to dive deep into your workflows and restructure them strategically and sometimes, it might require tracking records over an extended period of time.
  2. Lean teams mostly work without directions which makes it impossible to implement lean team strategies on inexperienced hires.
  3. Implementing a new strategy may result in stress which might impact the efficiency of even the senior employees. It takes time to adapt to change.
  4. Running a lean team becomes the sole purpose of an organization which makes managers lose sight of their core values and mission statement.

How to Build a Lean Team?

You can’t just snap a finger and expect your team to become lean. There’s a lot that goes into the process of building a lean team. You need to follow a step-by-step process to make your team realize that it’s time to shift towards lean practices in order to survive in the hypercompetitive market.

Step 1. Start with a 2-Pizza-Team

Lean team size matters a lot! Starting with a small team that can be fed on just two pizzas is something you should aim for (a concept coined by Jeff Bezos). Small teams bond faster and make rapid decisions which helps them try out innovative ideas.

Step 2. Build a Matrix Structure First

Try to start with a structure that’s cross-functional in nature and have members with a different set of expertise. In a matrix structure, a cross-functional team works effectively and generates more output in less amount of time.

Step 3. Make Your Team, Team Smart!

Many individuals are doing great in their respective departments but when they’re made a part of a team, they fail like a rookie. While assembling a lean team size, priority must be given to those who are team smart.

Step 4. Monitoring

After assembling a team, it is mandatory to keep track of their performance through the standard Key Performance Indicators set by your organization. However, close monitoring also impedes the performance of team members so try to follow a periodic monitoring technique for better results.

Step 5. Develop

A project manager, or a leader, must be readily available for problem-solving which encourages a norm of asking questions and learning new stuff. Leaders must develop structured problem-solving methods to help team members generate high-quality solutions.

Characteristics of a Great Lean Team

There are some of the common characteristics that a Great Lean Team has. Some of them are mentioned below.

  1. Lean teams have a culture of continuous improvement.
  2. Fluent upward and downward communication.
  3. Respect and trust among groups of teams.
  4. Team members are encouraged to take responsibility for their respective areas.
  5. Team leaders act like a linchpin.
  6. Project goals are strictly aligned throughout the teams.
  7. Reduced bottlenecks in the operations.

How to Manage a Lean Team?

Small lean team size is easy to manage because its structure is more like a matrix and individuals are closely linked with each other. The problem starts when the team starts to grow and the structure turns into a vertical one.

Here are some of our recommendations to follow in order to manage a lean team effectively.

  1. Every team member must respect each other’s opinions.
  2. Encourage productive critics and don’t hesitate to get challenged.
  3. Ask individuals to share their fruitful suggestions.
  4. Always be flexible in revising a strategy, lean team management is all about adapting to change.
  5. Focus on the personal development of individuals.

Wrapping Up

In this blog, we learned what is lean team and what are some of its benefits. We looked into the steps that one should take to build a lean team. Follow this guide, you will build a powerful lean team.

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