The Lean R&D Manager
e Lean manager’s responsibility is to create environments in which
people can ourish. at may not be much of a job description, but it
is enough. If a team is struggling with bureaucracy, clearly the bureau-
cracy barrier is something the manager can work to remove, and a Lean
research and development (R&D) manager will go about doing just that.
If a team’s biases are limiting its ability to see new ways to innovate in an
area crucial to the company, the Lean manager will help the team expose
their mental barriers. When researchers are struggling with communica-
tion issues, the Lean manager will coach them and provide opportunities
for them to grow, and shield them as they work through their skill-build-
ing process. If her team is having diculty getting the right information
from another area of the company, or operating smoothly with it in some
other way, the manager will apply herself to opening doors and building
bridges to unblock the ow of work. Within the community, she will hold
tension against individuals (and the community) who are thinking poorly,
shirking responsibility, or acting inappropriately, while easing the way to
collaborative, supportive, and communicative behavior.
Her job, ultimately, is tending to the nonwork systems that surround,
inltrate, and support the community in the pursuit of its common goals.
If she can increase those systems’ support of learning and collaboration
and reduce the bureaucratic or restrictive burdens, she will prove success-
ful. ereaer, it is the responsibility of each person and the community
as a whole to nd their own paths to growth.
Not surprisingly, from my viewpoint, every person in a Lean environ-
ment is a manager, irrespective of whether or not the company has an
explicit managerial function. Each colleague has the opportunity, hence
the responsibility, to identify systemic barriers in the environment. Each
102 • Creating a Lean R&D System
colleague has the opportunity and responsibility to identify and help
expose barriers holding individuals back. is responsibility comes from
the be state of the Lean person. People who are Lean assume responsibility
for themselves, for the community, and for themselves as members of that
community, and serve both with equal enthusiasm.
In this way, the Strategic Prosecution of Targets (SPOT) team at Pzer,
which had professional managers, found that it could create and manage
its own strategic direction; build its own infrastructure, communication,
and collaboration tools; develop immediate prioritization and experi-
mental design norms; and operate virtually independently. Managers
explicitly stopped dening work, experimental design and direction, and
strategy and priorities. Fully 50 percent of their work time was freed up for
the far more valuable task of coaching and removing barriers to growth
within the organization.
e basic skills of a Lean manager include the ability to see, without preju-
dice, group and system dynamics, individual and group thought, and cre-
ative and innovative processes. She must be able to see physical, mental,
and emotional barriers to innovation within the environment created by
those groups and systems. She must be able to reframe the assumptions
within the innovation environment and, in so doing, to design individual
and group experiences to improve those dynamics as projects progress,
ensuring that the growth of individuals, teams, and knowledge all expand
as much as possible. She must also have the technical skill to manage
knowledge projects, which means she will have to be able to see knowledge
growth, an intangible but critical element of R&D delivery.
Observing group and system dynamics in an external setting
Letting the environment tell you (listening in the internal environment)
Observing the internal environment (walking the gemba)

Get Creating a Lean R&D System now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.