Important Lean Mis-Conceptions Busted

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Important Lean Mis-Conceptions Busted.

Lean Myths and Realities

1. You won’t find Lean in the tools and methods.

Lean benefits are not found in the tools, although you will use tools to help you on your lean transformation.  There are thousands of lean tools, because each problem requires its own unique tool to help solve it.  You won’t really be able to do lean with generic tools, you’ll have to devise and adapt your own tools – for that you need scientific and critical thinking skills coupled with an understanding of Lean principles. Basically you have to learn to THINK differently and see your customers and business differently, that’s people development, not tools development.

2. Lean is not about optimising waste is about optimising value.

This is one of the hardest things about getting started with Lean.  Lean will require you to take a radically different view of the work you are doing. Almost certainly, much of what you are doing now is not really work, it’s waste. Processing the waste faster, or more effectively isn’t  Lean. All you get with that is Cheaper, Neater Faster, Waste. = Madness.  Your current thinking prevents you from seeing the high levels of real waste, which is caused the way you  previously designed the work.

3. Lean is not about managers fixing everything it’s about the staff owning and solving problems.

As a manager in a lean organisation, your role will be very different from one in a more traditional organisation.  Your job is not to know the answers.  Your job will be one of supporting the people who are doing the work to gather information about what is really going on.  You’ll also need to know how to look for what’s really there, and present this information without varnish to other managers and staff.  You may have to build a very different culture for your organisation.

4. Lean is not only about processes it’s about the whole service model.

Processes link the systems, performance and structure of your organisation.  Process improvement is a good thing, but not the whole story.  Companies often use processes to ‘wire-up’ their organisation like the wiring in an automobile, but hasn’t the time has come to trade in your old Model T Ford? it will not go any faster even with new wiring. Making improvements to processes alone will not yield the fundamental transformation that Lean can deliver.

5. Lean not about efficiency at all costs it’s about effectiveness at the right cost.

This is one of the biggest myths that  Lean needs to overcome.  Lean isn’t about cutting costs and doing things faster, although cost reductions and service improvements will result from a Lean transformation. Lean focuses on  the customers purpose. In a Lean organisation you won’t be focused exclusively on measures like first time fix, or time average resolution time or whatever.  You’ll know what the customer values, and you will be looking at the evidence that shows you how you are helping your customer achieve their goals.

These notes are from a recent Sense and Respond Lean in IT workshop in London with Stephen Parry.

2 thoughts on “Important Lean Mis-Conceptions Busted

  1. I had seen this presentation last year, and it is well worth it if you can attend. It is an excellent conversation about what is Lean and what Lean is not.

  2. Original Question on Linkedin. Do you think Lean is now so damaged as a brand and has been made so simplistic in order to sell tools that genuine lean practitioners should abandon the Lean name?

    I have stopped using the word Lean in most of the work I do, except to refer to it as a philosophy that will lead you to excellence in a contemporary way to manage a business.

    I got tired of people telling me after they find out what I do. “Oh, we ‘do’ Lean. We do 5S and Kaizen events.” The market has been polluted by people, certified, black belted and such, that are very good at teaching Lean tools but having no idea how to deal with the supporting mechanisms required to make these tools effective. Lean has been used as a cost reduction tool, it fell into the traditional financial justification trap, it was driven onto people, measured to excess, treated as “something else one needs to do in addition to their job”, starved of resources, time and support, lacked leadership and vision, and treated as an action-reaction method to be abandoned unless immediate benefits have been visibly (financially) achieved. It has fostered an industry where look surpasses substance. Companies have been praised for their hijunka boards, GEMBA boards, 5S, track Kaizen events, Visual management, Pull Systems etc……looking Lean is the rave and the specialty of many practitioners. Talking to the workers one finds out that Lean is a veneer placed above traditional practices that are still being followed.

    A deeper look indicates that items are different than the label in the spot indicates, Pull buffer areas are just storage, and goals in GEMBA boards reflect traditional goals, and hijunka boards are not up to date, and they have clocked hundreds of kaizen events, none of which really relate to a master plan or to each other. But, they call themselves Lean because they checked the boxes.

    We need to remember that Toyota did not coin the word LEAN, nor uses it. It was a way for James Womack to describe the Toyota system that used less space, less time, and less inventory….almost like a Lean Manufacturing practice…..It came at an appropriate time when the world was disappointed by the lack of success of TQM, and needed a new label. Now it seems, we are at the same place.

    By Anthony Mangione

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