Culture and concepts

Participative or directive management? Deploy lean culture

When we talk about teamwork, the image of rowing often comes to mind. All team members aim for the same goal and rowing in rhythm. It is a beautiful image to showcase group work. This metaphor is used frequently to describe team management, although this management is directive. Lean culture is the opposite of this image.

To make the best use of everyone’s skills, and with a focus on operational excellence, participatory management yields better results.

Beyond the traditional joke of the two companies that clash, you can read here:, I invite you to think about your organizational context, to choose the mode of most suitable management.

Directive management , the example of rowing

In the metaphor of rowing, the power of the group rests on three aspects: the team works

  • in rhythm,
  • to achieve a common goal,
  • with confidence.

As the team pulls harder while turning their backs on the lens, she sits on the helmsman. He is the one guiding the team to his destination. It’s a nice mark of confidence from the rowers, who do not necessarily know where they are going.

In the world of work, the manager is the helmsman, he knows where he should lead his boat (at least, his colleagues hope) and he assigns them the work and gives them the pace. The team knows its destination, but is not aware of the route taken.

Organizations with a low level of autonomy use this management model. Their paternalistic, authoritarian culture is perfectly suited to this type of management.

Participative management – the example of rafting


Unfortunately, in many organizations, knowing where to go and going there and going at it is not enough. The hierarchical organization of rowing is ideal for quiet rivers or lakes.

On a raging river, with a large flow of water, rapids that hide at the turn of sinuosity and branches that hinder navigation, our oars and rowers, as motivated as they are, will not go very long . It takes a much more maneuverable boat to bring the team to port, like a raft. Everyone knows where to go, but even more, everyone sees the obstacles and participates in his best navigation. Some rules were given initially, but in the end, everyone works to the best of his ability and capacity to achieve the common goal.

Deploy an operational excellence culture

Alone I go faster, together we go further


Operational excellence takes us further. Organizations that have adopted the tools, but especially the principles, are indeed more efficient.

Create value for the customer

The organization works for the client, placing it at the center of their concerns. More details in my article on client experience and added value. This is the case for most organizations. If the customer is not satisfied, he goes elsewhere …

Align the organization

This guiding principle is identical in the style of directive and participative management. What changes is the way employees are informed. In lean organizations, daily management is standardized, with scrums (or huddles or stand-up meetings). The strategies are broken down into objectives during an exchange between managers and employees.

Executives remain connected to reality by regularly going on the Gemba. Lean culture involves respect for the individual, but above all the humility of the managers.

Continuously improve

Finally, lean culture strives for perfection. It ensures quality at the source. Tools like the Jidoka (stop at first fault), ensure that operations remain efficient. Lean culture is process-centric. Men do their best with the processes. If there is an error, it is a faulty process. The manager will ask the question why rather than who.

The tools are numerous, I describe a few in this blog. But they only work if they are used with the right mindset.

And you, what is your type of management?

In what environment does your organization evolve? In the end, few have the “chance” to have ideal conditions to navigate. The performance of an organization is now gauged by its ability to adapt. And so that all teammates can participate in the best they need information: they must know the rules, the goal to achieve and the obstacles that stand. Hiding information from them or delaying information sharing will only increase the stress and hardships of the team. Raft management is a much better example of teamwork in a participatory mode.


Even if the picture is more chaotic than that of rowing, it is this type of management that increases the performance of the organizations, giving the opportunity to the whole group (and not an individual) to decide the actions.

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