Are you a "Lean Purist"?


5 Ways ERP Can Help You Implement Lean by Epicor Software Corporation

Ok, that's a trick question. I hate labels like that. I don't want to put them on me or anyone. I hope nobody thinks they are a “purist” or that they are doing lean for the sake of doing lean. If you manage to do something slightly different than Toyota does it because that makes sense for your business, then good for you! The point is building strong companies (and people) over the long term.

So why do I bring up the term then? I saw it mentioned in a press release about yet another software company that claims they can help you implement lean. Here are their words:

“In this paper, lean purists point to several basic ideas that are the foundation of Lean. The 5 lean principles of value definition and specification, value stream mapping, uninterrupted flow, customer pull and the pursuit of perfection are all supported and enhanced by comprehensive information control and the management tools that an end-to-end enterprise software suite delivers.”

I'm not trying to be a purist here, but the software company mangles the Lean Thinking principles in the name of brevity. “Brevity… is wit” as they say.

They gave shorthand definitions of the five principles and the second one particular misses (or ignores the point). The point is not to just “map” the value streams. The point is to map the value streams and to ELIMINATE WASTE. Sure they say it up above in the abstract, but if you're going to cite the Lean Thinking terms (without giving credit to the book or Womack et al) then at least use the more specific and more correct definitions.

Mapping is not enough. Mapping doesn't make you lean. You have to drive “continuous improvement in the pursuit of perfection.”

So, reading that sloppy abstract, I'd be less likely to think this particular vendor was less sloppy with instilling lean in their software. If you care to read the whole white paper (I don't, but it's linked above) and you find something more encouraging, let us know.

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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. Not entirely their fault. What does the book say? “The Value Stream” What do they say to do with it? Map it.

  2. Here’s a favorite of mine; an excerpt from a whitepaper by Synchrono:

    “Manufacturers that have introduced Lean, Theory of Constraints, or Six Sigma, have streamlined and simplified their operations. This simplification has in many instances minimized or eliminated the use of technological solutions. In effect, these methodologies have disconnected real-time factory performance from the rest of the enterprise, removing visibility and the ability to seamlessly change orders without adding confusion, manual work-arounds, and expediting.”


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