The Dynamics of Lean Implementation and Transformation


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The Society for Manufacturing Engineers puts out a noteworthy “lean directions” newsletter from time to time and there are many interesting columns to be found there.

In this column, though, I take issue with the initial question posed:

“Knowing that lean makes so much sense, and that the fundamental principles of lean are so intuitively the right thing to do, why does lean work in some organizations and not in others?”

From my experience, I don't think that lean principles are always initially intuitive to people. I think to instances where production teams think it's intuitive that batches are always more efficient, to times when operators questioned the idea of standard work by saying “well different people do things differently”, etc. I think I'm recalling a Jim Womack & Daniel Jones story about asking a child to help stuff and mail envelopes and the child “intuitively” set it up as a batch process!

So, I understand cases where lean understanding is there, but “anchors” prevent or slow implementation for one of many reasons. But, sometimes the challenge is that people don't yet internalize lean concepts that might seem “so obvious” to a person who has seen lean in action. Do we sometimes think that people should “see it” after a single training session? What do you see in your lean experience?

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Anonymous says

    Hello Mark

    I am a consultant mostly in Theory of Constraints (TOC). However, Lean is of great interest to me, because it combines perfectly with TOC. I am from Medellin, Colombia. Keep up the good work!

    PS – I see there are only two subscribers…have you promoted this Blog in other places to get more? Can I help in any way?


  2. Mark Graban says

    See my comment in the “who is visiting” thread…

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