By Mark Rounds, VP of Corporate Development

My previous blogs reviewed respect for the worker and seeking the optimal state as common points to both Lean Construction and Servant Leadership. To cap off my discussion of the synergies between these philosophies is the concept of a long-term company focus. To truly serve the worker, the customer, and the community, a company must have sustainable growth that succeeds no matter how the market is performing.

A long-term plan provides security to the workers. Workers who are not concerned about the company’s solvency and their employment status can concentrate their energies on their work. Employees will give more to the company if they know the company has their back. On the other hand, gossip of company layoffs causes stress and leads to reduced productivity. Greenleaf notes that leaders must care for the institution, which includes caring for all the people the institution employs. The caring must be genuine for it to count. The organization should be built on respect and teamwork. Deming emphasizes this in his Point #9 to break down the barriers between departments and staff to operate with shared values, free from conflict that detracts energy from the company.

To achieve sustainability, the organization must concentrate on real problem solving, and not on countermeasures towards results. Greenleaf notes that leaders must concentrate on today with solutions that will prevent crisis reactions in the future. The organization must deliberately seek high levels of quality and prevent waste. Deming’s Point #5 is to improve every process. This includes work in the field (or on the shop floor) and in the office. Allowing workers to make decisions based on guiding principles, instead of being restricted by corporate policies, leads to improvement. Unfortunately, companies employ restricting policies that prevent creative ideas and suppress process improvement.

The long-term view may disappoint stockholders who are looking for quick gains and high dividends. However, leaders who resist short-termism (Deming’s Disease #2) and emphasize service towards the worker and the customer, find sustainable growth from employee engagement and customer commitment. Leaders need a consistency of purpose to maintain the discipline to commit to employees and customers ahead of stockholders. Caring for the institution will lead to making the company great.

The synergies between Lean Construction and Servant Leadership are many. Neither of these leadership styles are easy. Lean takes a commitment to continuous improvement that empowers the employee to remove wasteful systems that do not benefit the customer. Servant Leadership is a commitment to serving the employee and bringing out his or her best. Employees treat the customer in the same manner they are treated by the company. Servant-led lean organizations understand this axiom and use the teachings of Greenleaf and Deming to achieve long-term success.


Servant Leadership and Lean Construction: Long-Term Focus is the fourth and final article in a series by Mark Rounds.
Click here to read the first article.
Click here to read the second article.
Click here to read the third article.