Lean Human Resources: Redesigning HR Processes for a Culture of Continuous Improvement, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Lean Human Resources

Redesigning HR Processes for a Culture of Continuous Improvement, 1st Edition

By Cheryl M. Jekiel

Productivity Press

263 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781439813065
pub: 2010-09-13
Hardback: 9781138463585
pub: 2017-08-09
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pub: 2017-08-09
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Encouraging a long overdue shift in thinking, this book gives managers and executives the means to maximize employee potential by first showing them how to increase the improvement power of their HR departments. Cheryl M. Jekiel, who has been implementing Lean initiatives out of HR offices for 20 years, defines the people-related approaches and practices needed to alter any cultural dynamic that keeps employees from leveraging their peak abilities. She looks at why so many companies allow this sort of waste to exist, how traditional HR departments have not been especially effective in combating waste, and why today’s HR department should be seen differently, as a partner delivering exceptional customer service to employees.

Everyone Needs to Learn and Improve

Everyone Needs to Participate and Be Involved

Ultimately, lasting change requires evolution in an organizational cultural and to achieve such change requires definitive changes in behavior. To ensure that changes are properly paced and effectively put into operation, the book puts forth a proven five-year plan that includes the building of improvement-linked competencies into each job.

Everyone Can Lead

Lead with the Customer in Mind

Lead by Teaching and Coaching

Lead by Creating More Leaders

A final section is designed especially for CEOs who must address their own views of HR before addressing improvement. They must recognize that Lean HR strategies and methods can be used to create a highly motivating place to work, and that anything less would be a waste of talent. To begin, an organization must realize the value of its HR staff and put it to use implementing improvement that is organic, fundamental, and self perpetuating.


Jekiel makes a strong case for the greater part of waste coming from poor or nonexistent HR systems; she breaks down that complex subject into root causes, commentary, and then solutions. Her systematic mapping of the path to get out of the cave and into the light of day gives the reader hope that transformation of the culture is possible.

— Sherrie Ford, Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice-President, Culture Power Partners, Inc.

This message is long overdue -- how HR can drive cultural change and powerful results -- by a truly Lean HR executive who has been there and done it.

— William J. Kennedy, CEO, The Sequoyah Group, Inc.

Table of Contents

Who This Book Can Help

Why You Should Read This Book Now

A Background in Business, Lean, and HR

How This Book Is Organized

Using This Book


Wasting Employee Talent

The Root of the Problem: Why Don’t We See the Waste of Talent?

Hidden Cause Number 1: Work Roles Limit People by Design;

Most People Can Do So Much More!

Hidden Cause Number 2: Power Is Limited to Only a Few People

Hidden Cause Number 3: People Are Reluctant to Do More Work

Hidden Cause Number 4: Channeling Abilities Creates More Work

Hidden Cause Number 5: There’s No Assigned Cost to People Working at Lower Capacity

The Solution: Seven Lean Principles Uncover People’s True Capabilities

Capability Number 1: Keeping Customers (and the Company’s Purpose) in Mind

Capability Number 2: Learning to Improve

Capability Number 3: Generating Ideas

Capability Number 4: Seeing the Big Picture

Capability Number 5: Solving Problems

Capability Number 6: Working to Meet Visible Common Goals

Capability Number 7: Demonstrating Personal Leadership

Conclusion: Wasted Talent Is a Natural Result of Failed Culture Changes

Attempts to Create an Improvement Culture Often Fail

Common Excuses for Failed Lean Efforts

Reasons for Failed Lean Efforts

Reason Number 1: Applying Lean as a Set of Tools

Reason Number 2: Changes Require New Ways to Work

Reason Number 3: The Balance of Power Creates Resistance

Reason Number 4: Lack of HR Involvement Automatically

Risks Failure

HR Has a Key Role in Successful Lean Implementations

HR’s Involvement with Cultural Implementations

HR’s Role in Designing Newly Required Processes

HR Supports Handling Resistance to Leadership Changes

New Roles for HR Apply to Any Organization

The Key to Unlocking HR Support of Successful Culture Changes


Keeping HR in the Background Is a Business Problem

How Historical Roles for HR Create a Problem Today

Root Cause Number 1: Too Much Focus on Administration

Root Cause Number 2: HR Is Seen as a Policing Function

Root Cause Number 3: Not Much Strategic Value Covering

Union Relations

Attitudes about People in the Workplace Are a Problem

Root Cause Number 1: People Are Not Viewed as a Strategic Advantage

Root Cause Number 2: HR Has an Assigned Role (Which Doesn’t Include Strategy)

Root Cause Number 3: HR Is Not Part of Improvement


Insufficient HR Skill Levels Don’t Help the Issue

Root Cause Number 1: HR Professionals Are Not Required to

Have Strong Business Skills

Root Cause Number 2: HR Professionals Lack Consulting Skills

Root Cause Number 3: Many HR Professionals Lack Customer


Root Cause Number 4: HR People Do Not Seek Strategic Roles

A New Vision for HR

New Attitudes about People Impact HR

Recognize that People Really Are a Competitive Advantage

Broaden Your Definition of "Labor"

New Demands Drive More HR Skills

Develop Business Strategy Skills

Develop Finance Skills

Develop Consulting (Alignment) Skills

Develop Customer Relationship Skills

Develop Team-Based Improvement Skills

Ensure Ongoing Personal Growth and Development

Develop Skill in Using Lean Methodologies

HR Needs to Step into New Roles

Become a Strategic Partner

Become a Champion for Improvement

How to Develop the New Skills You Need

Seek Out Educational Institutions

Benchmark Yourself: Learn from Other Organizations

Find a Mentor

Join Professional Associations

Assessing HR Skills

Providing Better Service for Your Organization by First Improving HR Processes

Three Benefits of Improving HR Practices

1. Ensure that Each Part of an HR Process Adds Value

2. Remember: Happier Employees Perform Better

3. Build Knowledge of Continuous Improvement through


Overview of the HR Improvement Effort

Step 1: Evaluate HR for Opportunities for Improvement

Clarify Current HR Processes

Establish Process Boundaries

Define Ownership, Results, and Stakeholders

Gather Data about the Process You Want to Change

Listen to Your Customer (Your Employees!)

Create HR Process Maps

Step 2: Prioritize Your Findings

Identify Which Improvements Best Support the Business

Strategy in General

Evaluate Improvements in Terms of Gains

Consider the Time and Resources Required

Step 3: Execute Your Action Plan

Make Sure Improvements Are Sustainable

Make Sure Stakeholders Buy into the Proposed Process Change

Develop Communication Plans with Stakeholders

Create Your Action Plans

Step 4: Evaluate and Revise Your Plans

Evaluate the Effects of the Actions Taken

Revise the Process to Make Additional Changes

Success through Powerful People Strategies

Traditional Business Strategies versus Lean or Continuous

Improvement Business Strategies

Difference in Customer Perspective

Difference in Workflows

Difference in People Strategies

HR Support of Business Strategy

Beyond Full Alignment


Changing Employee Attitudes and Daily Behaviors

The Role of Organizational Culture in Achieving Success

What Is Culture?

Every Organization Has a Culture

Setting Cultural Objectives for Your Organization

Identifying Your Organization’s Cultural Values

Key Concepts of Continuous Improvement Cultures

Cultural Element Number 1: Customer Focus

Cultural Element Number 2: Continuous Improvement

Cultural Element Number 3: Broad Participation

Cultural Element Number 4: Process Management

Cultural Element Number 5: Team-Based Factual Problem Solving

Cultural Element Number 6: Visual Measurement of Results

Cultural Element Number 7: Inspirational Leadership

Lessons on Culture Implementations for Lean HR

A General Approach to Designing a Culture

Customize a Plan to Implement a Culture

HR’s Critical Role with Cultural Objectives

HR Helps Differentiate the Effect Individuals Have on Culture

Dealing with Individuals Who Are Strongly Aligned to a Lean Culture

Dealing with Individuals Who Strongly Disagree with a Lean Culture

Dealing with People in Neither Group

Policies, Communications, and Celebrations Need to Reflect Your Organization’s Values

Assess Your Organization’s Policies against Lean Principles

Protect Employees’ Psychological Safety

Blur the Lines between All Employees

Encourage Accountability Instead of Control

Communicating Policies via Other Avenues

Communicating Policies via Newsletters, Bulletin Boards, and Meetings

Communicating Policy at Celebrations

Communicating Culture via Your Organization’s Physical


Communicating Policy via Your Organization’s Safety Programs

Planning Cultural Objectives as Part of Your Strategic Planning

Can Attitudes Be Measured?

Surveys Measure Attitudes and Build Relationships

Listening Builds Relationships

Using Culture Surveys to Support Culture Changes in Your Organization

Taking Surveys of Employee Satisfaction

Customer Surveys Can Be Very Useful

The Survey Process


Optimize Each Job

Building Continuous Improvement into Jobs

Level 1: Everyone Actively Drives Continuous Improvement

All Roads Lead to the Customer

Everyone Needs to Learn and Improve

Everyone Needs to Participate and Be Involved

Everyone Knows the Business to Some Degree

Everyone Participates in Team Problem Solving

Everyone Knows Which Measurements Relate to Them

Everyone Can Lead

Level 2: Winning or Losing Often Links to the Right Leadership

Lead with the Customer in Mind

Lead by Teaching and Coaching

Leaders Who Inspire Participation, Listen Effectively, and

Reward Initiative

Lead with a Standard of Consistency

Prevent Problems by Encouraging People to Surface Them

Lead with Visual Measurements

Lead by Creating More Leaders

Level 3: What Needs to Change in Each Function

Lean Accounting Competencies

Lean Human Resources Competencies

Lean Information Systems Competencies

Lean Quality Assurance Competencies

Level 4: Creating the Gold Standard for Each Job

Customizing Needed Job Skills for Any Organization

Begin with Organization-Wide Requirements

Define What Is Important for All Leaders

Bring the Strategy into Each Function and Job

Customizing Skill Requirements Is a Dynamic Process

Job Analysis for the Future

The Importance of Documenting Job Content

Documenting Job Content Establishes a Basis for Accountability

Documenting Job Content Establishes a Basis for Applying Lean Principles

Documenting Job Content Provides a Method to Link HR Programs

Documenting Job Content Provides a Model for Process Improvement of Jobs

Creating a Job Content Matrix

Step 1: Documenting Observable Activities of Each Job

Step 2: Documenting Knowledge Requirements of Each Job

Step 3: Documenting the Results Required of Each Job

Begin with Entry-Level Management

Complete the Documentation through Teamwork

Behaviors Provide Knowledge and Results

Identify the Future Proposition for Jobs

The Importance of a Lean Leader Matrix

Organizational Job Content Matrix

Creating Evaluations Once a Matrix is Completed


Linking the Four Core HR Processes to the Overall Business Strategy

HR Processes Can Be Strategic Levers

Excelling at One Primary Process Is Enough

Better HR Processes through Benchmarking

Strategic Lever Number One: Recruitment

"An Often-Missed Opportunity"

Start with Looking for Improvement-Oriented Leaders

Use Tools to Select the Right People

Try Outside Resources for Selecting the Right Leaders

Allow the Team to Select Its Own Members and Leader

Evaluate Your Organization’s Current Leadership

Strong Cultures Demand Strong Orientations

Strategic Lever Number Two: Training and Development

"Unless It Adds Value, It’s Often a Waste of Resources"

Standard Work or Knowledge Requirements Create a Basis for

Training Needs

Ensure Training Adds Value

Connection to Strategy and Results

Strategic Lever Number Three: People Thrive on Accountability

"The Great Controversy over the Role of Performance Management"

The Downside of Performance Management Systems

The Upside of Performance Management Systems

Standard Work Creates a Baseline for Performance Feedback1

Visual Performance Management Systems

Use of 360° Feedback Programs

Strategic Lever Number Four: Recognition and Rewards

"Most Over- and Underestimated HR Process"

The Power of Recognition

Start with Desired Behaviors

A Recognition Review

Financial Reward Systems

Sharing the Gains from Continuous Improvement

Beware of Disconnects

A Five-Year Plan for Change

How to Put Together a Five-Year Plan

Consider Management Roles and Maturity of Improvement Efforts3


The Benefits of Motivating the Human Spirit

Optimizing Human Potential and Motivation Creates a Triple Win7

Resulting Customer Benefits

Resulting Employee Benefits

Resulting Organizational Benefits

The Author


About the Author

Cheryl M. Jekiel is Vice President of Human Resources for the Flying Food Group. Jekiel leads the Human Resources Department including all corporate benefits, compensation and policy issues, while providing direction and leadership to human resources function in 16 unionized non-unionized domestic units.

Ms. Jekiel brings a tremendous passion for continuous improvement in her commitment to building Lean HR as a recognized field of work. She has over 20 years of manufacturing experience. Previously, Ms. Jekiel worked for a Chicago food manufacturer as the director of Human Resources and completed her employment by serving for five years as the Chief Operating Officer. Ms. Jekiel has developed an expertise in Lean manufacturing with a particular focus on Lean cultures. Ms. Jekiel has made countless significant improvements in reducing operating costs and leveraging a Lean culture to obtain new business. Her Lean experience has been greatly enhanced with her active involvement with the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME), which has included board roles for the National board as well as a Regional Midwest Board.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Human Resources & Personnel Management
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control