Sunday, June 1, 2014

Coaching Lean: A Manual on How to Sabotage Your Own Progress

Or, put another way, how to build a house of cards. Or, stub your own toe. I would like to outline 8 sure-fire ways to sabotage your own lean progress. I am an expert in this area, because unfortunately I did most of them myself. Every single time you try one of these techniques, just add a few months onto the journey. Well here goes.

1. Don't include everyone-or better yet, make a lean department that focuses on that sort of thing. Everyone else can just keep doing what they've been doing. Have the lean department go out and fix other people's work, and give lots of answers. Give up on some employees if they are too hard to convince, especially the ones who keep bringing up problems. In reality, the folks who keep bringing up problems are important to continuous improvement. Let's call it a "healthy disrespect" for the current condition.
2. Make getting it mandatory-it is way too much work to try and convince everyone. Let the doubters go, and say "I said so!!" often.
3. Take days off from lean-maybe even weeks! Do a monthly lean meeting. When you get "busy" don't make improvements (do it only when you have time (which is never)). If you do A3, leaders should let projects go late. It is the job of leadership to make sure A3 leaders meet their team's committed closing date.
4 Limit the amount of time people from different parts of the company work together-what possible wisdom could a machine operator or a shipping clerk share? Certify lots of green belts, and let them lead A3 (the clerks and machine operators can just be on the team so they feel like they are part of it). A packaging temp at one of my clients recently saved the company $2 million per year recently because the smart ones were smart enough to listen to him.
5. Leaders should do what they've always done-don't change!! Your typical day should stay the same-give lots of answers, ask for reports, sit in lots of meetings, don't go to where the work is every day. Also, don't worry about learning TPS, that is for the lean department. Make sure lean is a side project, not the business strategy, sort of like a hobby. If you are not willing to change, how can you expect others to?
6. Don't acknowledge or thank people-remember, their paycheck is their thank you! Or, if you insist on being grateful, thank everyone at once, like an assembly line, at the monthly or quarterly status meeting. Trust me, if you do a few hundred A3s per year, you will find yourself in awe and grateful for the genius that comes out of people thinking together.
7. Go after only big ROIs-screen out projects that don't yield a certain amount of money (even though lean is a laser-like focus on time, make sure everyone remembers what is Make sure the improvement projects are big....acid rain and global warming are good. Place zero judgement on a person's willingness to make improvements....large or small.
8. Snap every once in a while so people remember you are the boss-lose that temper. One of the real challenges in truly understanding respect for people is learning to lead without power. No matter how big your office, or what income bracket you find yourself, your job is no more or less important than any other in the company. If you do lose your temper, go apologize.


  1. Very well articulated !

  2. Excellent post and well thought out. Unfortunately, have been places that fit this to a T. Only hope to be able to apply learning of what not-to-do in a new, receptive place.

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