Familiar Voices and New Voices on Lean


You heard enough from me yesterday… today I want to share some other voices with you and their thoughts on Lean. First, familiar voices (John Shook and Jeff Liker) and someone who might seem like a new voice in the Lean world (Stephen Covey).

Familiar Voices:

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for the coffee shop chats between John Shook and Jeff Liker, talking about and debating the recent and current Toyota crisis. John Shook writes about it here, on his LEI blog management column (“Toyota Trouble: A Dialogue with Jeff Liker“).

It's too bad they didn't record this as a podcast or a video podcast. I've been reading it and will likely read it again to absorb their thoughts and perspectives. You can share comments on their discussion over at lean.org or share them here if it's easier.

New, Yet Familiar, Voice:

Utah State University recently announced that the famous author and guru  Stephen Covey (of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame) is joining the faculty of the Huntsman School of Business, the home of the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

In that new role (he is already guest lecturing), it appears that Covey might be taking an active role in promoting Lean? He was already announced as a keynoter at this year's Shingo Prize Conference (where I'll also be giving a talk on Lean healthcare).

Now, this video has appeared on YouTube, with Covey talking about Lean in very human terms — not tools, but principles of integrity and respect for people.


Do you think Covey will introduce Lean to a new audience? Will he have an impact on the new folks and the existing Lean movement in helping everyone understand that Lean is about people, not just tools? What are your expectations?

Have you incorporated Covey's “7 Habits” into your own professional development or formal Lean efforts?

I'm not the biggest Covey-phile, but I can see the connections (and remember enjoying his book and seeing him speak 12 years ago): Habit 1 (Be Proactive) certainly fits with Lean (identify possible problems in the process rather than reacting when things go wrong. Habit 2 (End in Mind) speaks to purpose and goals — why we work at Lean transformation. Respect for people includes Habits 3,4, 5, and 6 (integrity, win/win/ seeking first to understand, and cooperation). Habit 7 (sharpen the saw) speaks to “kaizen” or continuous improvement and development.

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

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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. It seems that Covey and the Shingo Prize are going to have some problems merging the two philosophies. Covey has an inside-out approach where Lean has an outside-in approach.

    Covey focuses primarily on the importance of putting self first in regards to motivation. This focus on self will inevitably dictated the results of character. In Lean the primary focus is on the processes and culture which eventually dictates the motivation of the individual and self.

    I’m not sure exactly how these two ideas will merge together but it will be exciting to see. Covey is speaking tomorrow at the Utah State University and if I get a chance I want to ask him how he plans to merge these two juxtaposed views.

  2. I believe that Covey’s addition is a great one as it will complement a missing piece in the way Lean is typically introduced or described.
    In the 8th habit book (a much better read in my opinion than the 7 habits), Covey talks about “finding your voice” and “inspiring other to find theirs”. And the way you find your voice is by looking at the intersection of you talents, passion and conscious. In other words, what Covey is suggesting is to focus on your Purpose while learning and developing the 7 habits.
    Without that clear purpose how could someone help others?
    Covey’s idea of purpose is one that goes beyond your own needs as individual and usually relates to helping others in one way or another.

    The same concept applies to an organization, the reason you would want to focus on the customer and what’s value added for them is because it is part of your purpose not only because you need to gain profit. In many situations organizations view customers as a mean to end which is profit, in those cases they would most likely be practicing the “Fake Lean”.

    On a personal side, I have decided to leave the for-profit sector because ultimately whatever I was doing was not supporting my purpose in life and that’s how I decided to move to the Healthcare sector and focus my energy on improving processes that improve the patients stay. And although I was having fun while working in the For-profit sector (most likely because I was feeding my ego :)), I now feel more fullfilled.


  3. I do agree with Kevin about Covey’s inside-out approach where Lean has an outside-in approach. I want to add that on a lean environment it is essential to have trust of the workforce so that they understand that productivity improvements would never cost them their jobs”
    Also when using Lean manufacturing principles, costs will reduce but on the other hand when the workforce feel that feel of insecure job stability it will definitely affect their daily performance not helping production improvement.


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