Helping SSAB go all-in with Lean

SSAB is a Swedish steel company selling to global market. Robert Kusén is a Vice President of SSAB and the author of the Lean Leadership book “Respect for People.” They have a team of 50,000 people and Robert is responsible for Lean transformation of the business. They have an all-in strategy with Lean, meaning they are fully committed to making a transition into the Leadership, culture and ways of working that originate from the Toyota Production System across the entire organisation.

Gemba’s Leading the Toyota Way Masterclass helped Robert see how the Lean leadership, culture and ways of working manifest itself and how to train Lean leaders based on Toyota’s best practice.


My Challenges: As we make a transition to a Lean way of working, we find that it can be challenging to identify, support and reassign Lean leaders lacking conviction or skill. Creating and implementing an organisational setup that supports continuous improvement and close coaching leadership is not easy. Another challenge is an alignment between Europe and Americas as Americas has a long tradition of Lean six sigma and project based improvement work.


How Gemba Helped: I’ve been a Lean nerd for many years. Since 1999, I’ve been in different roles where I teach other leaders how to make the transition to Lean, but also myself being a line manager initiating change. It’s been hard to find training where I feel like a student and not the teacher. Masterclass led by a Lean guru Jeffrey Liker, where the arena for learning is an actual Toyota plant, did just that. You can learn a lot about the Toyota Production System by reading books and meeting those who studied Lean for years, but there is a big difference to walk into the production plant at Toyota, where you see Lean living and breathing, how planning takes place and how deviations are dealt with, as well as meeting the operative leaders and asking your questions to them. What also helped is having that experience of seeing exactly how Lean should look like and then Jeffrey Liker decoding it with you to analyse exactly what happened there, what’s the thinking and science behind it and how it can be applied to our organisation. All in all great experience.