New Year’s Lean Resolutions?


So, in a way, the whole concept of New Year's resolutions “batches up” improvement, which isn't a good thing. The start of a new calendar year is a pretty arbitrary, yet symbolic, day. True “kaizen” shouldn't require a particular day to prompt it…

That said, what are your “Lean resolutions” for 2008? These might be things you resolve to do, using Lean concepts or methods, or things you resolve to do in the course of implementing Lean.

One resolution for me to make sure I'm better at communication the “why” when implementing Lean, helping my clients articulate it and making sure everybody in the workplace understands why we are making changes or why we're trying new things. I resolve to continue asking people to challenge me, to ask why on their own, since the “why” conversation is a two-way street, whether explaining “why” or asking “why?”

What resolutions do you have? Or is the whole thing silly?

Happy New Year! Let me also take a moment to thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate the time that you take out of your day to check out my little piece of the internet. Thanks to all of you, especially, who interact with me via the comments or email. Here's to a great 2008.

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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. My first resolution is to do a better job of building my own brand, both within my company and in the greater Lean Six Sigma community. What you know is still important, but who you know (and who supports you) are equally so.

    Secondly, I am planning to sharpen the saw this year. I support transactional parts of my business, but have no experience in manufacturing. So I plan to get myself involved in efforts in our manufacturing sites to gain that experience.

    Oh, and I resolve to read LeanBlog daily.

  2. I have lots of resolutions! But I agree that goals should be set anytime when appropriate. I am using the New Year to start some themes (e.g. weight reduction) and I will adjust them during the year and maybe append or subtract some goals. In the previous year, I had very good experiences with a weight reduction of 8 kg by drawing a straight line reducing 1 kg a month, weighing several times a week and standardizing my meals ;o) I would like to try using the same method on different aspects of my life.

    I really like your focus on explaining “why”. I often read that Toyota is a society of scientists and that Lean is a philosophy. I have not yet read that Toyota is a society of philosophers, but I think that is closer to the truth. Explaining why is philosophy.

    Philosophy has two meanings: 1. A doctrine, and 2. A structured activity to make explicit what we know and how we know it. Toyota certainly has a doctrine (a shared ideal of the perfect company), but philosophy in the second sence is most certainly also conducted by Toyota.

    Normally philosophy would be to make premises and arguments explicit so as to enable scrutiny and detection of fallacies (i.e. bad arguments or e.g. missing premises). The visual workplace is kind of a physical interpretation of the philosophical approach. Making the “idea” explicit for scrutiny. Science is but a small part of philosophy, where the explicit theory/hypothesis is tested by an experiment.

    I have a resolution to make this issue even more explicit and share it with the rest of the Lean community for scrutiny and criticism. The process of philosophy, I think, is very central to learning in general and to understanding Toyota in particular. Any ideas on how/where to publish such a text would be very welcome.

  3. Mark,
    I prefer to think of New Years as a time for Hoshin Kanri, deep thinking on where you’re going to take yourself in the next year. If you’re setting more detailed and specific goals than that, then you probably are batching them. New Years is about setting directions, the specific goals should come later. Of course, we’ll have to see if I break that resolutions. ;)

  4. I resolve to do a better job leading my employees toward that single mindset which great lean organizations seem to have.

    And, I resolve to do a better job personally educating the public about people like those on this blog who are leading U.S. manufacturing to even higher levels of proficiency and innovation which no foreign competitors will likely ever reach.

    Annus Mirabilis et al.

    That’s the way we see it in Philadelphia.

  5. I have always read and studied Lean and DFSS, but when trying to use it in my position at a non-profit I ran into numerous road blocks, with the last one getting very nasty, resulting in my taking my leave from the agency. So my resolution is to find a position using these tools. My first interview is tomorrow!

  6. I’m not a big “resolution” guy, but my continuing goal is to promote Lean in healthcare at every opportunity, including conferences, workshops, meetings, blog postings, etc. I think the opportunity is there for healthcare to significantly improve from within, and I believe we owe it to our patients, families, and communities to do so.


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