Q&A with Sam MacPherson

Sam MacPherson is internationally recognized as a lean enterprise transformation leader for the Lean Leadership Academy. He will be giving his keynote presentation at the IIE Engineering Lean & Six Sigma Conference Thursday, Oct. 30 at 8 a.m. 

What is the most pervasive issue or challenge arising in lean and Six Sigma implementations?

We are not deliberately developing our lean and Six Sigma leaders into our future lean enterprise leaders. A recent LinkedIn study noted that the primary feeders of U.S. industry chief executives, of companies $500 million and above, have a CFO or private equity background and do not have an operational background and detailed working knowledge of lean organizational leadership or a lean management system.

According to an eye-opening study by Deloitte LLC's Talent Edge 2020 – U.S. industry has an ever-widening 31 percent gap between the availability of high potential, globally deployable leaders, and it is drastically affecting the future of U.S. competitiveness. Additionally, according to a 2013 Accenture study, surveyed executives stated that developing effective front-line leaders is a priority concern.

What do you plan to discuss in your keynote presentation?

The title of my presentation is "Closing the Leadership Gap: Strategies for Creating a Pipeline of Highly Engaged Lean and Six Sigma Leaders." We have a gap – not just in skilled trades, but in the availability of innovative, high potential and globally deployable operational OpEx (operational excellence) leaders prepared to lead their organization's future, profitable growth and contribution to society.

Despite the popularity of lean books, certification programs, boot camps, and online "lean leadership" programs, most leaders will wait 10 long years before they receive anything that looks like leadership development training. Articles like the December 2012 Harvard Business Review piece "We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders" and McKinsey Quarterly's "Why Leadership-Development Programs Fail" are pointing out a very large elephant in the room: The lean leadership gap is growing. Why do these approaches to lean leadership development not work? Because leadership development must be an experiential process and actually involve leading. Lean leadership must embrace the old Training within Industry motto: "Leaders Get Results through People."

What would you like attendees to take away from your presentation?

Leading your organization through a lean transformation, profitable growth and beyond requires a special kind of leader with a deeper level of skills and experiences. Leadership development must be experiential. Meeting your organization's need for current and future lean and Six Sigma leadership must start with a professionally challenging and structured leadership development approach, followed by a careerlong lattice of challenging OpEx leadership development roles and experiences, supported by a network of leadership mentors.

  1. The current state lean leader development
  2. Why leadership development programs fail
  3. Strategies for improving how we recruit, assess, train, mentor and develop leaders
  4. How to use your lean transformation as a leadership development platform
  5. Critical steps we can take to build our lean leadership pipeline

Here are a few links to more insights and resources from MacPherson on the Web.

For more information about Sam MacPherson and the other IIE Engineering Lean & Six Sigma Conference keynote speakers, go to the Keynote Speakers page at www.iienet.org/leansixsigma.