Lean and HR; HR and Lean. First, a question of terminology. I distinguish between lean in HR and HR’s role in lean. Lean HR or lean in HR is not different from any other functions with internal management systems, processes and procedures. It using lean principles, concepts and tools to try to make work flow better to deliver service to customers and perform business function in the company. HR’s role in a lean company or one aspiring to have a lean operation and culture is a very different animal.

From my Toyota days, where HR partners with Production Control in managing the combined as in integrated and interdependent technical and social system of the company, HR’s role is to assure that capable and engaged employees are available at the right time and place in the right amount to meet the production plans of the operation. HR’s strategic role is to assure that as much thinking and prioritizing goes into maintaining and improving the capability of the human system that goes into maintaining and improving the technical system.

Behind the scenes HR’s role is to assure that leadership and management put as much effort into managing and developing the human system as they do the production system. In other words assuring that that human resource management and development is not just HR’s responsibility.