The challenges of humanitarian leadership are well-studied by the social sciences. However, there is untapped potential in applying private sector management principles and best practices to humanitarian work.
Some non-profit organisations have fruitful experience applying Lean Management, an innovative management system developed by Toyota. This management principle focuses the organisation on providing more value to its customers which, in the case of the humanitarian sector, are its beneficiaries.
[The] Cinderella story of the Toyota company illustrates the extraordinary potential that Lean, with its emphasis on continuous improvement, can have on any and every organisation.
This paper is based on a panel presentation at the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference, which discussed how Lean Management principles can empower employees and improve the impact of humanitarian work. The panellists shared their experience of using Lean Management to address common issues in humanitarian operations, demonstrating the potential of Lean to transform work and relationships by devolving power to lower-level workers and partners. By empowering staff and local entities, it also improves relationships, collaboration, and ultimately the outcomes of humanitarian missions.