Apr 12 2016

I’ve been watching & even engaged in a debate on LinkedIn over the last few days. The primary topic is Lean Failure and the debate is about whether it actually exists as well as what is the cause (or to many, the causes). I am working on a book on the subject so I wont go into detail on that. You can read mine & other’s thoughts on it here.

The point I wish to make though, is that regardless of whether people believe Lean has failed or the companies implementing/introducing/practicing Lean have failed lean, few companies capitalise on the potential. They dabble with tools & techniques but few get as much as they could if they had engaged fully.

There are probably very few companies that would say that their Lean activity has not provided some benefits, most would probably say that the efforts & money spent on it was repaid in greater productivity, an improved bottom line, etc. Therefore the customer is happy, right?

Sure they are, just like an investor is happy when their broker tells them he has provided them with a 10% return on the money they invested. The broker fails to mention that it could have been 20%. The frustrating thing is that often with Lean, as in investing, it could have been so much more.

If we truly engage and follow the principles of Lean, not just apply the tools, then the rewards can be phenomenal. Sadly too few understand this. Even many within my industry are misguided in thinking that just applying the tools will magically change the way people think. That when people see the benefits, they will change the way they think, the way they behave which in turn will change the culture of the organisation.

This is possible of course, but it is not a given. Sure, we can focus on removing waste, we see some, and we miss some, but how do we maximise the potential? Something that is virtually always talked about but little effort seems to be exerted to achieve – by getting everyone engaged. Getting everyone focused on improving their operation, their process.

As always, this is much easier said than done, but if your efforts are being ignored or worse, subverted by those at the front line because you just want your leaders to know HOW to use the tools, it is unlikely they will change how they think, which means it is unlikely they will change their behaviours which of course means the culture will stay the same.

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