Lean Security

The Missing Link in Lean: The Management System


I have been discussing lean concepts, principles and tools for the past few months. The next few columns will focus on putting the pieces together.

To maintain results, a lean management system must be implemented and a culture change must ensue. A lean management system sustains and extends the gains from implementing lean. The lean management system consists of the discipline, daily practices and tools you need to establish and maintain a persistent, intensive focus on process.

Focus on the Process

It is the process focus that sustains and extends lean implementations. In previous columns (Nov. and Dec. 2008), I discussed that in order to improve, there must be a complete understanding and documentation of what you do, why you do it, and how it gets done. We created a process capture form to depict information relating to all security processes. The form was used for 30 days to portray what is currently going on and what processes are consuming employees’ time. We then categorized the processes as critical or non-critical.

The Lean Management System

The lean management system consists of only a few principal elements that are interdependent. That means all of the elements have to be present for the system to work.

The four elements are:

1. Leader standard work;

2. Visual controls;

3. Daily accountability process; and

4. Leadership discipline.

This month’s focus is on the first of the four elements.

Standard Work for Leaders

Standard work for leaders — the engine of lean management — is the highest leverage tool in the lean management system. Leader standard work is the first principal element of lean management. It provides a structure and routine that helps leaders shift from a sole focus on results to a dual focus on process plus results. This change in focus is crucial to the success of a lean operation.

If you think of the lean management system as a kit of parts, leader standard work provides the instructions for how they fit together. It reduces ambiguity and sets the conditions under which an individual leader’s success is more likely. It eliminates the guesswork. Standard work stabilizes the leader’s day — it not only specifies what the leader should be doing, it also, by implication, identifies what the leader should not be doing. Focus on your own work, and call on others to focus on theirs.

Many leaders are oriented towards doing — getting things done, crossing things off a to-do list. Leader standard work fits well with this orientation. For those with a more creative bent, standard work enables them to get the routine things taken care of with less mental energy, leaving them free to focus on making changes and improvement.

Lean management does not come about only from having its pieces in place. The lean management system works for you when you work for it. That means coming to think differently about what might appear to be many small things, but which add up to a big thing. The big thing is discipline on your part as a leader to follow your standard work faithfully and in-depth. That will entail scrutinizing the entries on visual controls, focusing on gaps revealed there between expected vs. actual, and holding people accountable to complete daily improvement task assignments to address and close these gaps. All of this follows from your standard work as a leader. Fueled by your disciplined adherence to it, leader standard work becomes a powerful engine for the lean management system.

Applying lean principles and concepts to security operations does work. Security must be considered and thought of as an integral part of the business. We must realize the value we bring, accept the call and respond.

I once heard someone speaking about how low the expectations for the security function was. When I heard that statement — and being a security professional who is always looking to add value — I immediately gravitated towards the positive side of this statement. I figured that if the statement was true, and the expectation for the security function was so low, I could easily and consistently exceed those “low” expectations by aligning security services with business goals and objectives, and deliver excellent value to our customers. What did I have to lose? I liked those odds!

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