The Excitement of Starting with Lean


One thing I love about doing consulting work is that you get to see people go through the early excitement of learning about lean for the first time. Seeing the proverbial light bulbs going off is energizing, to say the least.

I heard this comment today from a client team member who didn't know what lean was a month ago, but has been deeply involved in our lean process. She said, “Lean just takes over your head. On the way home, you start thinking ‘is this the best route to take?' and I've been driving here for 20 years!”

Lean… the drive for improvement, for efficiency, for error proofing… the mindset really can impact you very quickly. I heard another great comment from someone who was learning to not tolerate the same old workarounds and process bandaids. She said, “Today I stopped and said ‘we have to fix this!' Instead of just finding the material, let's figure out how we should organize it so it's easier to find next time.”

Lean is exciting for people when you engage them in the process, when lean is something that will help them and their customers (or patients). Lean is exciting when it's something to make your job easier and to help you do a better job.

Lean isn't exciting when it's a threat to your job or when it's being done “to you” by an outside expert.

If you need to re-energize your own “lean mind”, then seek out and teach someone in your organization about lean… show them how lean can help them and you can feed off of their enthusiasm and excitement. Even if you don't need re-energized, maybe that's a good New Year's resolution — go out of your way to teach someone new about lean.

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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. I couldn’t agree more. Your light bulb graphic was perfect – the best part of any day for me is seeing that light bulb go off over someone’s head when they “get it”. Whebn I hear someone complain about something, I ask “how would you do it?” or “how cna we change it?” When I saw Jeffrey Liker speak the other day, he talked about how all the little changes (the Toyota way) trump the big changes (the American way) every time, and taht’s why most comapnies can’t be a Toyota. The little changes come from the front-line workers – and our job as Lean people is to help them “learn to see” the things that can make those changes reality.


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