By Kevin Meyer
I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Hillary Clinton, but today's Parade magazine has an interview with the Secretary of State that shows how she uses a couple of key lean leadership tools. Of course tools do not create lean leadership or even plain leadership for that matter, but I'll give some props when props are due. And I'll pointedly stay away from certain other aspects of her style that are, well, controversial and decidedly non-lean.
First off, Hillary embraces the concept of a brief daily morning meeting.
8:30 a.m. Daily Small Staff Meeting
The Secretary and six of her closest aides, including Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and
Deputy Chief Huma Abedin, both of whom worked on her Presidential campaign, review the day’s
schedule, looking for trouble and opportunities. They meet in Clinton’s small, personal office just
behind her larger, formal quarters. Practically every day begins this way. They touch on various
explosive international hot spots: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea.
8:45 a.m. Daily Senior Staff Meeting
The State Department’s top 15 officials gather in Clinton’s formal conference room to expand
on matters discussed at the preceding meeting.
In well under 30 minutes she has coordinated with her personal staff and with the professional staff. Lean leaders know that the morning stand up meeting, no more than 5 to 15 minutes long, is an incredibly powerful tool. The brief communication creates coordination, reduces missteps and redundancy, and creates strong forward movement on issues and projects. In fact, regular weekly or monthly staff meetings can often be reduced or even eliminated.
1 p.m. Lunch With Leslie Gelb
We eat in the courtyard adjoining the State Department’s first-floor employee cafeteria.
Diners gape as Clinton goes through the line, although she does this—most unusually for the nation’s
top diplomat—nearly once a month. Many burst into applause.
Perks and security are to be expected with such a position, but finding time to interact with every level of your team is very important. A true gemba walk would have been even more impressive.
Now if we could only get her to try some hoshin kanri…