The Responsibility of Daily Improvement

April 12, 2020

Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan was once quoted saying, “You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.” In this context, consider responsibility the same as accountability.

managing for daily improvementWe are talking about MDI, or Managing for Daily Improvement, with this post but not purely the technical aspects of it, but rather the systematic nature and leadership accountability chain of it. We wrote an article recently about MDI, it's merits, and the leadership responsibility of it. No doubt, we are big believers in the power of having a robust MDI system in place to effectively run an operation and truly practice continuous improvement. And while the authority of running the MDI can be delegated to staff managers at the value stream and to the front-line leaders like supervisors and team leaders, the ultimate responsibility lies with the top site or functional leader. That cannot be delegated.

We know the system works for tracking performance to key measures, collecting data with respect to targets and misses, and then providing an encompassing problem-solving rigor to drive improvement. The linkage it creates from the point of impact at the cell or line level through the value stream level and on through the site leadership team, including front end engagement, is incredible when functional and leveraged correctly. It is almost beautiful to see it functioning correctly, but it must be deployed and owned by the team, led by the top leadership.

In our opinion, there is no more important time of each day for a site leader then doing the gemba walk and engaging in the MDI process. It should be the most important "meeting" of each day and should be the key heartbeat on running the plant. This is leadership presence, a key aspect of CP2, - being in the gemba, reviewing the metrics and MDI process, helping as needed to resolve issues, and engaging with the team. How could we miss this? And when we do as leaders for sustained periods of time, the MDI process can taper off and become less effective. Exceptions are one thing but once missing becomes the norm, watch the effectiveness decrease and the team will just go through the motions. Don't let it come to that.

If you are a site or functional leader, please reevaluate not only your commitment and leverage of the MDI process, but also your responsibility for it. If you are a lean manager, please coach the team and management staff on not only the technical aspects and merits of MDI but also the core leadership concepts around it. The top leader must own it, and the team must believe in it to ensure full participation and support to get the most out of it. 


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