The Lean leadership develoment model

by Mascha Westen-Reinders Folmer, Reinders Folmer Consultancy, 9 April, 2021

In blog #5, I talked about Lean leadership self development and 2 supporting structures:

  • The Lean leadership development model
  • The Toyota kata

Today I will elaborate on the Lean leadership diamond model.

The Lean leadership development model (the diamond model) – The Toyota Way to Lean leadership

What is the Lean leadership development (or Diamond) model?

Jeffrey Liker and Gary Convis describe 4 stages of Leadership development at Toyota, in their book The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership. These four stages are:

  1. Commit to Self development
  2. Coach and develop others
  3. Support daily Kaizen
  4. Create vision and align goals and plans

In the next paragraphs these 4 stages will be explained more indepth

1. Commit to self development.

Toyota’s answer to the ‘nature or nurture’ question related to leadership is:leaders are born AND leaders need to learn”. In the Toyota way you can read that at Toyota leaders are preferably selected internally. Every member of the board of directors within Toyota has been working at Toyota for more than 30 years.

The five aspects of learning at Toyota:

  1. Use Standard work, to prevent errors and to have a work routine and keep your mind free to look for improvements.
  2. Have a sensei to coach you. To get future Lean leaders, you need to get a Lean expert to train and coach them.
  3. Learn by struggling. At the start the sensei will give the student answers on his questions. Along the way this will change to giving questions back and so teaching them to find their own answers.
  4. On the job development. If you want to be a leader at Toyota, you start improving your own processes by organizing kaizen events to gain experience in both leading and improving.
  5. Challenges are increased, for instance by improving in less familiar processes and departments. This way they will gain more experience, learn more about the other processes in the organisation and gain more experience.

2. Coaching and developing others

Developing yourself as a leader is gaining new knowledge and experience and at the same time using what you learned and developed to coach others in your team. The structure (standardized way of working) for this is the A3 tool. It is a structured approach to change and a mini projectplan on one A3 paper. Instead of telling their employees what to do, the A3 structure* helps the leader to ask questions and guide employees through their improvement step by step in a Lean way.
*For more information read: A3 thinking



3. Support daily Kaizen

At Toyota improvement is part of everyday life, especially for leaders. Totyota distinguishes two types of improvement, or Kaizen; improving daily work as a respons to deviations from the standard (maintenance Kaizen) and improving the existing standards to a higher level (improvement Kaizen). Lean leaders work on both by motivating and coaching their team in problemsolving, for instance through compliments for personal performance and small rewards for every improvement made.

4. Create vision and align goals

All leaders are involved in both defining the vision and strategy of the organization and achieving the targets derived from them. The tool that is mostly used for this is the combination of Hoshin Kanri*, made practical with the X-matrix, and the daily management system. Hoshin Kanri provides the compass towards the True North (dot on the horizon) for all departments. The strategy is then translated to goals for each department and all the way down to employees. The daily management system is used to measure KPI’s on their progress towards the targets.
*For more information: basics of Hoshin Kanri, extensive information about Hoshin Kanri.

At Toyota you will not get a promotion, when you do not invest in these 4 steps. They incorporated the learning and development of all staff in their daily work as a pillr of their continuous improvement culture.

If you are interested in this topic, you can read more in the following books:

When you have any questions, or are interested how this could apply to your organisation, feel free to contact me.