Real Lean vs. "Fake" Lean


Society of Manufacturing Engineers

Good discussion of lean culture change and a real overall lean management system, as opposed to “fake lean”, consisting of use of lean “tools” and a reliance on kaizen events. Real lean is about leadership and maximizing the potential of your people.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I agree with your comments about the structure around lean, but I shudder at the thought of clarifying ‘fake’ vs. ‘real’ lean. This can often lead to useless academic arguments. What are your experiences with these types of line-in-the-sand arguments around lean – good or bad?

  2. Well, in a way, I think “true lean” or “real lean” is whatever works for your business and company. What’s right for Toyota and what’s right for Dell Computer might be slightly different because of their unique business models.

    I think “real lean” is something that is sustainable. “Fake lean” often tricks us into thinking we’re on the path to being Toyota, but we’re really just headed back to where we started.


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