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The program leader is the organization’s guide while creating a culture of continuous improvement. This person will work closely with senior management and will act their behalf when directing the organization on its journey.

This person is part project manager, part coach and mentor, part consultant, and part bulldozer. He or she is responsible for helping chart the course the organization will take, developing the skills the team will need to get there, and leading the organization down the chosen path.

The hiring of a program leader presents a special catch-22 challenge. It can be hard to commit to hiring a senior individual without a clear understanding of how the company will conduct its transformation. But without someone guiding the organization, it can be a challenge to figure out what, or who, it needs to be successful.  


There are no prerequisites for this section.

Section Details

Estimated Time for Section: 1-3(+) days. The time will vary based on the selection process used, the number of potential candidates, and the makeup of the decision making body. While the time invested may be a total of 1-3 days, there is generally a much longer lead time from when the senior leaders decide to hire a program leader until the time he or she shows up for work.

Difficulty: High. Selecting the right person for this job can be challenging, especially when there are several decision makers with competing interests. This is likely to be compounded by the pressure to get started on the transformation.

Risk: High. The right program leader will make or break an organization’s effort to develop a business management system. There is also a risk associated with lost opportunity if the program leader hiring process takes too long.

Materials Required

  • No special materials are required for this section.

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This section of our practical guide to continuous improvement explores the source of the motivation behind a company’s decision to embark on a transformative journey. The title of the section, “Understanding the Motivation to Change”, applies to any significant departure from the way you are currently doing business.

Why is it important to understand the motivation? In a nutshell, the path a company takes is dependent upon the reasons for the change. More importantly, if there is a shift in the underlying impetus for change, there is a risk of the project losing steam. In addition, the reason behind the change plays a role in determining how various groups buy into the new way of doing things.

The bottom line is that it takes an incredible amount of work to fundamentally alter an organization. The program leader must have a clear understanding about why the company will be investing its resources in doing something new if he or she wants to maximize the chance to build a successful business management system.


A program leader must be assigned prior to attempting this section.

Section Background

This is an early section for one simple reason. Without a nudge of some sort, nobody would even be reading this document. Sometimes, though, people act without a clear understanding of why they are doing what they are doing. We find that people are more successful at making lasting changes if they spend a bit of time gaining insight into their organization’s motivation.

Section Details

Estimated Time for Section: 1 Day. Note that you may have some scheduling issues when trying to speak to several key leaders, but the overall time invested is generally just a few hours.

Difficulty: Low. There are no special skills required to complete this section, but it helps to have an understanding of people and to be able to ‘read between the lines’ of what people say. Presumably, the program leader has already been vetted and will have no trouble with this section.

Risk: Varies. Some people are sensitive about probing questions, especially before they get used to the scrutiny that Lean places on processes and problems. This can strain relationships, especially when there is an imbalance in power.

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  • No special materials are required for this section.

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Over the years as a member of the online continuous improvement community, I have had the pleasure of meeting several like-minded individuals. Each contact with them helps me refine my ideas and learn more, as well as reinvigorates me in what I do.

Recently, I’ve gotten involved in a series of conversations with a small group of those individuals. One of the topics we’ve been discussing is what was missing from the Lean community, and what we could do about it. Being a group that practices what we preach, we decided to avoid sitting around talking about something that could be measured.

So, we put together a brief survey about what you think would make the Lean community more valuable. And since we know your time is limited, we thought it might be a good idea to bribe you with a freebie to say thanks for investing a few minutes to help us out. It’s got a few of my items in there, as well as materials from Matt Wrye (Beyond Lean) and Chad Walters (Lean Blitz Consulting). The URL for the free content is at the top of the survey.

Thanks in advance for letting us know what you think!

Click here to answer the survey.

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About the Gotta Go Lean Blog

The Gotta Go Lean Blog focuses on Lean at the front line. We help managers and employees work together to make Lean more productive for the company, and jobs more satisfying for workers.

To help you make your continuous improvement efforts more effective, our Lean blog offers a variety of different types of articles. You may see traditional articles, Lean terminology, videos, and podcasts.

We like to think the Gotta Go Lean Blog is unique in its style and content, but we also stand apart from other Lean blogs in one major way. We link our content to The Continuous Improvement Companion,our award-winning online reference guide, so you are never without detailed information about the topics we talk about.

So read a few of our articles to make sure you like our style (you can find previous articles here), and then sign up at the top of this page to get the Gotta Go Lean Blog delivered right to your inbox.

Finally, we want the Gotta Go Lean Blog to be a community for like-minded Lean thinkers. We'd love to hear from you in the comments section of our blog posts.

Learn about

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Jeff Hajek