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Seven Criteria for an Earnest Lean Enterprise Transformation

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This post comes from Mark Edmondson, President of LEAN Affiliates.

Our team periodically visits a new client site that has a lean initiative in place. In these situations, we're trained to rapidly assess the status of their efforts. Recently, after visiting a client site and meeting with the leadership team for the first time, we realized that their Lean initiative was missing some key elements. We went through with them what we've learned from experience distinguishes a successful Lean Enterprise Transformation. This includes:

1. Active sponsorship by the CEO or business owner.

2. A systemic management process that links activities to key business objectives, and tracks their progress on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.

3. An appreciation by senior leadership that “Lean” is not a program or project. It's an ongoing business system that guides how they manage their company and their people.

4. Although breakthrough results are achieved, it's not just a rapid cost cutting program.

5. It goes beyond “manufacturing”, “black belts”, and tools. It's about management's responsibility to actively engage everyone, everyday in continuous improvement. This is pursued across the extended enterprise.

6. There's a respect for humanity. Employees are valued as a strategic asset rather than a variable cost. When you meet employees, overall they seem energized, positive, and engaged. They don't have the “whipped puppy” look in their eyes.

7. A sense of learning by doing. There's some form of engrained feedback process (PDCA, DMAIC, etc.) to learn from successes, and to avoid the same mistakes again.

As a lean professional, how do you assess a lean transformation? Your comments about the above 7? Do you have additional criteria that you look for? Click “comments” to chime in.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. 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 book is an anthology 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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