Sunday, December 13, 2015

LEAN Tip: Get By With A Little Help from My Friends

"Lean is fun!!!!!!"

Said hardly anyone ever. Done properly, your lean journey will be disruptive to the status quo. If people aren't at least shifting in their seats, what you're doing is probably more of the same. As you continue along this action-packed journey, one day you will wake up and realize that most of your waking hours is spent in the presence of problems. This awakening came after about 3 years into my first trip down Lean Lane. The President of our company came into my office, and said, "Bill, do we do anything right?". You find yourself working on problems, helping A3 teams get to root cause of problems, thinking about new problems to go after, dreaming about problems in bed. If you think about your A3 board, all of those improvements people are making are to solve problems. In my company, we would do hundreds and hundreds of A3s (problems) each year. One of the tenets of TPS is to "make your problems visible and the curriculum of your learning organization."

I would like to offer you 2 things you absolutely have to do to maintain your sanity while proceeding down your green mile...I mean lean journey:
1. Find out what other companies in your area are doing lean, and go visit them. In fact, try to set up "home and home" visits. You go see them, they come see you. I recommend you try to do this once a month. The value of seeing them is that you will realize that they are dealing with many of the same hurdles you are. You will also realize that they do some lean things better than you, and that you do some lean things better than them. The value of them seeing you is the impact these visitors will have on the employees in your company. Suddenly folks that fought tooth and nail will be taking ownership in what has been done as they explain it to your visitors. Watch your lean efforts accelerate as this ownership increases after every visit. Include different employees on your road trips also. Don't forget your customers and suppliers, either. I would be shocked if many of them were not doing lean in some form or another.
2. Treat yourself to an off-site lean event or seminar at least quarterly. Again, the power is in coming to the realization that you are on the right track. I would argue that the conversations at lunch and dinner were as valuable to me as the technical sessions! I made an annual pilgrimage to the Lean Enterprise Institutes's International meeting, and got to hear how companies like Grainger of Starbucks was interpreting and putting into action many of the same concepts I was working my way through. When I got home, I was too pumped up, and had to calm down for a couple of days so I didn't overwhelm people with so many new found ideas.

I don't believe lean is best done in a vacuum. A change in perspective is essential to keep things moving forward. See companies that are bigger and smaller than you, Visit people in a completely different marketplace. Post questions on Linkedin.

Resolve to take your lean thinking on the road and you just might hear yourself muttering to yourself....."lean is fun!!!"


  1. yeah Bill Greider my thinking is all like you well one thing more which I think is best to learn about kaizen training as well that really helps in transform your organization more !
    thanks for sharing this beautiful blog !

    1. John Robert, I am so sorry I am so slow with this reply! Thank you so much for reading it and taking the time to comment. With sincere thanks.