Reader Question: Why Do We Still Do It?

Dan asked a really good question in the forum for the Move to Healthcare networking site.

He suggested I pose it here, and I thought that was a great idea. Click “comments” to share your thoughts on this (and a 2nd reader question tomorrow afternoon):

Many of us in the Lean community have been through job loss due to downsizing, right sizing, strategic priority changes, leadership changes, position elimination, and so on. Some of us are even aware that our positions will be eliminated in the coming weeks – blamed primarily on the economy.

It seems that many of us in that uncomfortable position choose to return to a Lean role….somewhere. My question is – why? What makes us return to a role that is usually the 1st or 2nd to be eliminated when times get a little tough? I’m sure we can do other things. I’d venture to say that perhaps most of us have done other things for our employers prior to Lean. Doing that other thing well, may be exactly why we were asked to step into a Lean role.

If you are looking for another Lean role now, or if you will be looking for another Lean role due to job loss soon, would you mind sharing the reasons you plan to “keep doing it”?

What do you say?

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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10 Comments on "Reader Question: Why Do We Still Do It?"

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  1. Rick Foreman says:

    Great question. I would hope, as Mark mentioned in his “donut” post that the focus or key factor in making a difference lies with the people. For me, I like lean because it makes things better for the people in many ways. I’m fortunate to work at a company where the Lean guy is not automatically noted as disposable due to economic pressure. Instead this great team realizes now is the time to take it to the next level.We consistently communicate our financial stability in these times is due to the implementation of lean methodology.
    Best of luck for those who are sticking with it.

  2. omar carrera says:

    Great question indeed, my answer is because it is the right thing to do. It comes a point when lean practioners have to realize that this is more than just a set of tools and programs… it is a way of thinking, problem solving and living, I wen’t back to lean because I couldn’t have done it any other way… lean is what makes me happy

  3. Mike T. says:

    Our organization, while very young in Lean processes, has not let any Lean-minded people go, although we have struggled through some layoffs. The company appears to realize the value we can yet bring to the table.

    I know, for myself, after doing what I’ve done, I couldn’t go back to doing non-Lean thinking. When I first came to my current employer, I had been utilizing Lean and 6-Sigma for roughly 5-6 years. I immediately started incorporating a Lean mentality into what I was doing, which is why I was selected to help start the Lean movement across the corporation, even though I had only been here 2 months. It becomes such a simple, cultural mindset that you simply can’t “walk away” from Lean.

    Sounds like an addiction, doesn’t it :)

  4. Mike Lopez says:

    If the company is letting go of all their “Lean people” first, that says to me that the company was more interested in “doing Lean” than they are in “being Lean.” Tough times show true colors.

  5. Dale Hershfield says:

    I’ll stick with the theme, because I believe it as well: lean is the “best way” and it’s rooted in respect for people. When the right people and right leadership come together to create a lean workplace, it is truly a beautiful thing! Once you’ve tasted that clear, fresh water, nothing else ever comes close!

  6. Dan Jones says:

    I think that a more valuable position than a lean position is when the workers and managers take on the lean responsibility themselves.

    I have been job hunting and have been faced with this dilemma. After almost four years of working for a process improvement consulting company my default job title would be something like: Lean Engineer, Lean facilitator, or Process Improvement Specialist / Analyst. I have decided that the ideal position for me might not necessarily be the lean facilitator hopping from one team to another but instead a worker implementor lean as part of the job and not the job itself. It seems that it is more value added if a supervisor can rally his troops to improve their process rather than rely on the “lean guy” to come make his way to the team before any process improvement takes place.

    I am looking for an opportunity to use my lean knowledge as part of a job and not the job itself. I love solving problems and looking for ways to improve. Even if a job description doesn’t include the word “lean” in it I plan on being lean and implementing lean principles.

    However, I need a job, so I won’t turn down an opportunity to be the Lean Specialist!

  7. Matt Wrye says:

    That is a fantastic question. I stick with the lean field because I don’t believe there is a better way to run a business and have passion behind that (like most lean coaches). I also choose not to work for Toyota or Danaher because I want to spread the learnings of lean to more companies. I purposely choose to bang my head and get frustrated because in the end I want more and more people to know and understand lean because it is so powerful.

  8. Dwane Lay says:

    While not expecting to be looking anytime soon, I was a year or so ago, and Lean was a big part of what I was looking for.

    I’m in HR, a discipline that is often seen as “soft” when it comes to quantifying value. I see a tremendous opportunity in this (and similar) disciplines for those who not only know how to quantify their value (through project or portfolio management and Lean initiatives) but can show the impact they have had on previous organizations. Years of experience looks better when paired with hard savings and quantifiable impact on the business.

  9. Joe W says:

    I wish I had an answer for this question…

    I was hoping to find inspiration in others posts, but they aren’t doing it for me.

  10. Mark Graban says:

    To Joe W. — I think inspiration ultimately has to come from within. Keep searching inside rather than looking for inspiration from others.

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