Creating a Culture of Lean Continuous Improvement: A Conversation with David Mann – LeanBlog Podcast #9

david mann creating a lean culture 3

LeanBlog Podcast Episode #9, is a discussion with David Mann, the author of the excellent book Creating A Lean Culture: Tools To Sustain Lean Conversions.

In this episode, we will talk about Steelcase's experience with their lean efforts and the realization that they required a “Lean Management System” for supervisors, managers, and leaders. We'll talk about what that means, why it's a critical feature of their Lean System and how to start making the transition to being a “lean leader.”

For earlier episodes, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS or via Apple Podcasts. 

LeanBlog Podcast #9 Show Notes and Approximate Timeline

  • 2:10 Started with lean, being asked to help with communications at Steelcase about 10 years ago
  • 2:50 Steelcase's original “case for change” regarding lean
  • 4:45 How do you prepare people for change?
  • 5:15 Changing away from an old established piecework system (80 years of history)
  • 7:20 Had worked with Toyota-trained consultants, had “technically perfectly fine lean designs” but they were falling apart when project teams left
  • 8:28 “The Toyota guys were like fish and we were asking them ‘what's it like to be able to breathe underwater?'”
  • 8:55 Baseball great Ted Williams
  • 10:15 “Needed a different behavioral recipe”…. for leaders and supervisors, what do you need to do to sustain lean conversions? After 30 value stream conversions.
  • 11:00 Concluded they needed a “Lean Management System” (how to manage) to complement the “Lean Production System” (the arrangement of the floor, material flow, etc.)
  • 12:45 Needed to focus more on the process, not just results
  • 13:00 Need to see how actual measures up to expected… and ask “why?”
  • 13:40 “If you take care of your process, your process will take care of you.”
  • 14:00 How do you work to transition traditional supervisors into lean supervisors, being a coach, being a leader? What about resistance to standard work for supervisors?
  • 15:00 “It requires a leap of faith” and then small steps (e.g., visual controls, like a production control chart — put your initials on the hour-by-hour chart 4x per day and ask why when you see a chart not being filled out).
  • 17:00 At first lean was more work for the supervisors, but they tried convincing them that it will eventually make their lives easier (if they take care of the system)
  • 18:25 “Lean system are more high maintenance than mass production systems” (for the superivors and team leaders) — it made sense to create standard work for them (80% of their time is accounted for by standard work).
  • 19:25 Tell me more about the hierarchy of checks within the organization…
  • 20:30 Managers at different levels are spending a certain amount of their time checking the standard work of the manager below them
  • 21:45 David tells a story about letting a manager lapse back into the old fire-fighting mode instead of following his standard work
  • 24:50 Being a hero versus proper planning
  • 26:30 What kind of timeframe would you use for evaluating whether or not a supervisor can make the transition to the lean way?
  • 30:00 It becomes easier to see faster in a process-driven management environment that mirrors the discipline of the production environment. It becomes clear in a matter of weeks… can't do it or won't do it
  • 31:20 Steelcase and the industry went into a historic recession after the dot com bubble and 9/11… demand fell 45%, so many people left, but those still left in management positions were the ones who had really embraced lean

If you have feedback on the podcast, or any questions for me or my guests, you can email me at or you can call and leave a voicemail by calling the “Lean Line” at (817) 993-0630 or contact me via Skype id “mgraban”. Please give your location and your first name. Any comments (email or voicemail) might be used in follow ups to the podcast.

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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.



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