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Responsibility is the state of being accountable for something. It may be a team, a process, or an entire company. In general, responsibility is the cost of leadership. Being in charge means that a person has to make sure that things go as planned. Responsibility means having to answer for one’s decisions .

Authority is closely tied to responsibility. If a person is going to be in charge of something, they will also need the ability to do something about it.

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Responsibility plays a significant role in Lean. First of all, processes become much more transparent when there is a focus on continuous improvement. That transparency highlights the success of failure of the person in charge, so the person must take a much more active ownership role in their areas of responsibility.

The other main impact is that Lean requires extensive participation by the frontline team in an organization. That means delegating authority. Responsibility, however, remains with the person in charge. Asking a team to help make changes does not absolve a manager of the burden of leadership.

  • A leader can give authority without responsibility, but never the other way around.
  • Senior leaders are responsible for the performance of their junior leaders. Don’t neglect mentorship. This can be a challenge when the subordinate has a great deal of experience. More time in a job doesn’t mean less development effort. It means more sophisticated mentoring.

You will have far more responsibility to think independently in a Lean organization than in a typical one. Because the operations run with short lead times and low queues of inventory and flexible staffing, you will have to be proactive to keep the company from falling short on its commitments. This means learning to identify problems and opportunities early but more importantly, taking the initiative and acting on what you learn.

Among the hardest challenges for a rookie leader is letting go of authority without handing off your responsibility. That’s not to say you can’t hold your team responsible to meet expectations. It just means that you are not absolved just because you pass a task on to someone on your team.

This challenge is compounded in a Lean organization where you ask people at all levels to make changes. One of the burdens of leadership is the fact that you are responsible for the actions of your teams. The key to success in this area is to make sure you are spending a significant portion of your time mentoring your team to take on more.

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