On the 27th and 28th May, I will be leading Lean Institute Africa’s first Lean Human Resources Masterclass. I am writing to you today to share some of what I have planned for the Masterclass and something of my professional experience.

Lean HR Masterclass
As I see it, Human Resources in a lean organisation has three key roles:

  1. Stabilisation of the work environment. This includes the day-to-day work, such as maintaining good industrial relations, managing daily work, maintaining a healthy and safe environment, and transactional HR duties.
  2. Developing people. In a lean organisation this is not simply skills training. Developing people is much broader; it is about total people development from their skills and competencies to their wellbeing and attitudes.
  3. Productivity and continuous improvement. This goes to the heart of lean in people management. Managing productivity and continuous improvement is, among other things, about creating an environment for people to work better and more productively. It is about creating an organisational value system that appreciates the potential of people and ensuring that their systems and processes are structured to optimise the ongoing value of this potential.

There will be three themes running through the Lean HR Masterclass:

  1. Challenging existing beliefs and current conventional management practises. This will include a look at commonly used measurements in HR and the opportunities for a coherent set of people management standards consistent with lean thinking.
  2. Introducing lean principles within the HR environment specifically. And discussion about how the principles could be applied to HR.
  3. Business enablement. This will look at how HR can support the strategic objectives of your organisation to create more value for customers.

The main aim of the Masterclass is to challenge conventional HR beliefs and to explore how the lean principles can add value to the function of HR practitioners and the organisation as a whole.

My professional experience
After being schooled in traditional ways of management and practising these while working in Human Resources, I joined Toyota in 2008 during a very challenging time.  Toyota is well-known as the original model for lean thinking.

2008 – 2009 was an interesting time for my introduction to lean thinking. It was the beginning of an economic crisis that brought the global economy under severe pressure. For the automotive industry, responding to this crisis called for radical and urgent action. This environment provided a crucible for lean thinking, and for me a unique opportunity to participate in and understand lean management and in particular how value can be created out of a crisis. Simultaneously, labour instability in the industry was rife, resulting in illegal strikes, low morale and associated weaknesses. The economic recession had created massive excess automotive manufacturing capacity around the world. Intra-company competition for opportunities to manufacture was very high, labour stability and cost competitiveness became critical requirements for survival and sustainability and people management was at the centre of these competitive challenges.

I have built my experience in Human Resources over many years. From the early nineties as HR consultant in the insurance industry to recently as Vice President of HR and Training at Toyota South Africa and now as Chairman of the Automobile Manufacturers Employers’ Organisation. At the height of my assignments, I led a team of approximately 260 HR practitioners serving a workforce of just under 10 000 people.  I have also been involved in different capacities in the negotiation and resolution of complex disputes. The key highlights of these being as facilitator of the Automotive industry wage negotiations in 2007, Chief negotiator for the automotive industry in the 2013 negotiations and facilitator of the Metals and Engineering sector negotiations in 2014.

I am looking forward to the Masterclass on 27th and 28th May in Johannesburg and I hope you will join me. To read more and to register visit:  https://www.lean.org.za/lean-human-resources-masterclass/

Kind regards,

Thapelo Molapo
Lean Institute Africa Associate