Sunday, March 3, 2013

LEAN: Half a Dozen Ways to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

It is my contention that the reason so many companies struggle and fail implementing lean (develop a culture of continuous continuous improvement) is that we sabotage our progress every other step of the way. I present to you, a quick summary of 6 ways to really shoot yourself in the foot:

1. Don't include everyone, or, make it mandatory for all.   
2. Emphasize saving money often, so people remember what is truly important
3. Limit the amount of time people from different departments are thinking and learning together. (Do it real spotty)
4.  Make sure Senior Leadership doesn't DEMONSTRATE lean is important. Have them stay in their offices.
5.  Seldom acknowledge, thank, congratulate or celebrate.
6. Start your lean event with a HUGE scope, especially if it is one of your first events and you want to show everyone how great lean is. (things like global warming or acid rain are good). Then, as you do the 3, 4 or 5 day "event", make sure someone is responsible to keep track of all of the ideas that are real good, but can't possibly get done during the event. Call it a kaizan newspaper or maybe a parking lot. Now here's the best part, everyone just go back to work and never mention them again. 

One of the things I hear at least once per week is that we are crazy busy and where do we find the time to do lean? By picking a monstrous project, and then moving a few things around, and THEN leaving a long list of "to-dos" that never get done, we are inadvertently reenforcing that crazy busy thinking Remember that one of the leaps of faith when you do lean is that 90-95% of our crazy busy is WASTE. P4 Lean Strategy is about setting up a new process in the company that yields small, incremental, reversible steps toward flow. One of the key rules is no to-do lists! If there is a ton of WIP after the event, the scope was too big. 

That is just a starter set of things to help sabotage your progress toward becoming a true learning organization. Please feel free to add another one or two that I could share. (the more sarcastic the better!)


  1. Other ways to derail a LEAN initiative:
    7. Use LEAN as the basis/shield/scapegoat for managements decision to reduce someones pay. (Do this once and watch LEAN unravel)
    8. Create teams of people that include folks with hidden agendas - especially destructive if the people with the hidden agendas have authority.
    9. Tell everyone that LEAN will never be used to eliminate jobs and that people will always be redeployed in other positions - Then cover up the fact that people were eliminated because...they just didn't have a seat on 'The Bus' any longer.

  2. Thank you Surfsup, can I use these? Thank you for reading my drivel. I really appreciate it.