Mark Graban's - Lean Healthcare, Lean Hospitals, Healthcare Kaizen, Lean Thinking, Lean Manufacturing, Toyota Production System

Addendum to Census of Manufacturers

I have something else to add to my earlier post on the state of lean through the eyes of an Industry Week survey. My point is this: we don’t know what to call this stuff, and at the same time, we spend too much energy trying to rename it.

I’ll be straight: I think when John Krafcik coined the term “lean,” it was a mistake. I couldn’t have done any better, but lean is all about LESS, when lean is about less of some things and more of others. Because of the connotation of the word takes us down the road of less people, less other stuff, it is often misunderstood and misapplied. That being said, it’s what we’ve had for almost 20 years. It’s not realistic to think that all of industry will come together and make a uniform AND simple decision to change the word.

When someone asked me when we were starting the Lean Learning Center why we didn’t use a different term, considering how many bad versions of lean were out there, and my response was that it is more important to shift the understanding of lean to something more productive.

I don’t mind a little disharmony in what terms we use. My big problem is making up new ones, such as Lean Sigma and the latest one I heard, “Kai-Sigma” which is some play on combining kaizen and six sigma. That one actually got me mad. Let’s focus on ideas, not words. OK, end rant, on to more productive things.

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Jamie Flinchbaugh is a lean advisor, speaker, and author. In addition to co-founding the Lean Learning Center, he has helped build nearly 20 companies as either a co-founder, board member, advisor, or angel investor. These companies range from high-performance motorcycles to SaaS tools for continuous improvement. He has advised over 300 companies around the world in lean transformation, including Intel, Harley-Davidson, Crayola, BMW, and Amazon. Jamie co-authored the popular book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, and continues to share his experiences as a Contributing Editor forIndustryWeek and as a blogger at He holds degrees from Lehigh University, University of Michigan, and MIT, and continues to teach and mentor on campus. Jamie is best known for helping to transform how we think about lean from a tools-centric model to one based on principles and behaviors. His passion for lean transformation comes from seeking to unlock the great potential that people possess to build inspiring organizations.

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