Lean Tools vs. Culture
Here is an article with a link to an upcoming Industry Week webcast (there will be software vendors on the call, you've been warned).
One focus of the webcast is supposed to be a discussion of how companies that truly embrace the lean culture get better performance than those who just adopt some lean tools. That's hard to argue with, since a lot of us realize that the Toyota Production System isn't just about tools, like kanban. While 90% of the almost 300 manufacturers surveyed related their commitment to Lean, less than 20% of those exhibited the type of comprehensive Lean implementations that would deem them “best-in-class.”
This is in line with an older Jeff Liker quote (I'm paraphrasing the exact numbers here) that 80% of auto suppliers are talking lean, but 5% are actually doing it. It's MUCH easier to talk a good game with lean than it is to actually get there.
While 90% of the almost 300 manufacturers surveyed related their commitment to Lean, less than 20% of those exhibited the type of comprehensive Lean implementations that would deem them “best-in-class.”
Some other data from the Aberdeen Group study:
It's much easier to observe lean methods and to measure business results than it is to objectively see a “lean culture.” But, I'd argue you can get a very good sense of the culture by stopping on your plant visit and talking to regular operators and supervisors.
Ask them what happens with employee suggestions. If they say “What's that?” or if they describe an overly bureaucratic process that takes six months to give them an answer, they aren't lean. If the operator says, “I talk to my supervisor about my idea and we try it out. If it makes things better, we use the suggestion and make sure the others know about it, it becomes part of our standard method,” then they are probably on the road to lean.