A linchpin is a fastener passed through the end of an axle to keep a wheel in position. The term is also used figuratively, according to Wikipedia, to describe, “something [or someone] that holds the various elements of a complicated structure together.” What an apt description of the role of middle managers in a Lean environment.
When we talk about the Lean business management approach or just continuous improvement in general, we often say that it involves everyone from the CEO to front line workers. In the literature about Lean, a lot of emphasis is put on what top leaders need to do to create a culture of improvement. There’s also much discussion about how to keep operational workers involved and engaged. Both are essential, but it is a huge mistake to underestimate the role of middle management.