Seeing ‘Lean” as More Than a Tactical Fix

Today’s post begins to explore an important question raised by an observer about the progress of the lean movement:  After decades of study and implementation, why do we still point to just Toyota?  Shouldn’t there be thousands of major corporations and institutions that demonstrate lean success?

I read an interesting perspective this week on what might be limiting lean and Lean Six Sigma successes, titled ”Prying Management Away from Old Assumptions: Why rational approaches sometimes backfire.”  The author indicates that the best approach is not to conduct lean or Lean Six Sigma as a series of tactical projects led by experts at the front lines; instead, he recommends facilitating a shift in mindset to “systems thinking.” 

Why is systems thinking important (and further still, system dynamics, which is particularly consistent with the lean dynamics philosophy)?  Because attaining the types of powerful results demonstrated by lean benchmarks takes more than simply stretching existing methods a little further–it takes transforming the way business is done. This is similar to what I described in my book, Going Lean: How the Best Companies Apply Lean Manufacturing Principles to Shatter Uncertainty, Drive Innovation, and Maximize Profits.  Moreover, it explains why applying lean tools as a series of tactical fixes in the absence of a broader plan and measurement structure can cause unintended consequences, particularly for complex businesses operating within dynamic conditions.  Not only can this seriously limit the benefits seen by the customer and the corporation (which should be the central focus of going lean), it can also create new barriers to introducing subsequent advancements.

How can this be done?  Check back tomorrow for more…

One thought on “Seeing ‘Lean” as More Than a Tactical Fix

  1. Brian (Marrvvin) says:

    Excellent article, great points. Being a SS practitioner, I’m always shocked that the world still points to 2 or 3 businesses as being the gold standard when this is in general circulation.

Comments are closed.