Many of the “anti-lean” stories I hear sound like descriptions of situations or methods that I would hardly describe as “Lean.” There are many problems with the word “Lean,” but we’re pretty well stuck with it.
- “Lean” is often used in a negative sense that has nothing to do with the Toyota Production System, as in “we have a very lean staff,” meaning “we don’t have enough people to get the job done.”
- There is no official ‘keeper of the lean” to officially bestow the “lean” title on any practice or behavior. We’re free to describe pretty much anything we like as “lean,” the only downside might be getting mocked in the lean community, but that’s not much downside, is it?
For example, the “5S” program in the UK that was described as “demeaning.” From the news reports, this didn’t sound very “lean,” in terms of doing anything much to reduce waste or improve things for employees. Does this give “lean” a bad name or does it give the consultants and the managers a bad name? People tend to blame “lean.”
When companies use lean methods to drive layoffs, something most lean consultants (myself included) say you shouldn’t do since it understandbly drains any employee enthusiasm for lean, does this give “lean” a bad name or that company a bad name? People blame “lean” and say that “lean” led to their layoffs.
When this guy got the idea, somewhere, that Gemba walks led to more bureaucracy and paperwork. If that the was the case somewhere (and it shouldn’t be if a Gemba process is implemented properly, would “lean” get the blame for wasting managers’ time?
We need a phrase that describes these “bad” or misguided attempts at Lean, things that give Lean a bad name.
Lean As Mistakenly Explained? Can you think of a better phrase? We need something to describe what bad managers do when they purposely distort or accidentally misunderstand Lean. Maybe this will catch on, or maybe it’s lame. This way, when we see a “lean horror story,” we can refer to it as the “LAME method” instead of a “Lean method.”
Do you have any “LAME” stories to share for others to learn from?
About LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Customer Success for the technology company KaiNexus. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.