Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is LEAN Supposed to be FUN?

One of my Sensei's told me early on that if you find yourself having fun "doing lean" you're probably not doing it right, and you might be "putting lipstick on a pig." I guess what that meant was the activity might look like lean to the untrained eye, but you might not actually be moving toward FLOW. Doing 5S or 3 day kaizan "events" can be fun I guess. These fun activities don't compare however, to disrupting your marketplace by being the best at giving your customers exactly WHAT they want WHEN they want it. 

This game plan can definitely have its "ups and downs". FLOW is that perfect world where an order comes in, and never stops moving until the customer gets what they want (and you get paid). The things that cause orders to bunch up and slow way down are called the 8 wastes-defects, overproduction, waiting, non-essential processing, transport, inventory, motion and unused people (employee) brains. The lean tools help you see these 8 wastes, because once you get past the low hanging fruit, they can be hard to see.

There may be several reasons why every single day might not be fun:
1. People's tolerance for process change. One of my favorite sayings is "never defend the indefensible". Having said that, sometimes, for some, sticking with a lousy, overburden-some process is preferable to change. Most of us embrace change like a porcupine.
2. The frustration that CONTINUOUS improvement means exactly that-continuous, forever, always. Don't you just love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done? Well forget that. Pursuit toward flow never gets there. 
3. As LEAN Champion, your role is to poke, prod, and ask why a million times. From personal experience, I find this activity can tend to irritate, no matter how you do it. In fact, you might find yourself not being invited for the beer after work. Irritate the wrong people, and you could find yourself on the endangered species list.
4. That feeling that nothing is ever good enough. Again, this is a trait of the champion or change agent. It differs from #2 in that I'm referring to always going hard after problems, making them visible and the root of your learning. It;s like every day is overcast.

Have I convinced you yet to give it a try? It will be more fun than putting lipstick on a pig!     


  1. Lean has to be fun, now, what is not fun is having someone coming to your work area pointing out issues. If you are asking your employees millions of questions a day and imposing YOUR ideas instead of nurturing them in their own lean learning experience so they can come up with the ideas themselves they have all the right to resent you. In my opinion a job of a Lean leader is to teach (or provide learning, however that may be), to encourage change, to set guidelines for continuous improvement and to provide goals. If people are trained to do the job, they have the confidence to do the job, they have clear guidelines for doing the job and they know where they are going every one is happy.

  2. Thank you so much for that, well said. Best regards, Bill