My Debut on “The Lean Edge” — Too Lean?


I'm happy to announce my debut on the site, where many Lean authors have their say in answering a question of the week. It's a thrill to be included in a list of authors including Art Smalley, Daniel T Jones, Jeff Liker, Michael Balle, Mike Micklewright, Mike Rother, Pascal Dennis, Peter Senge, and Steven Spear.

The first question I answered was this one:

From Rob Austin: When Is Lean Too Lean?
“Lean” sounds efficient, and I like that. But I worry that it also sounds like “no backup inventory” or “no backup system.” I've heard stories about what sound like too-lean operations disastrously disrupted when unexpected problems caused severe delays and there were no backups.   So what is the relationship between lean and robustness in the face of unexpected problems? Can a lean system also be resilient?

You can read the first part of my answer below or just click to read the whole thing on You have to register to comment, so if you want to leave a comment, you can do so on this post. I'll continue linking to my Lean Edge posts there. It's also fun to see what the other authors said about this same question. Which was your favorite response?

The first part of my response:

“There's a fallacy in the question as stated – that “lean” means there's a major risk of not having what you need to get your work done. This is one way the word “lean” is sometimes misunderstood (going back to the  1980s book “Zero Inventories,” the title of which was taken too literally by some). During my graduate school studies in the 1990s, I worked with a manufacturer who had taken “zero inventories” and what they thought was “lean” to an extreme. They slashed finished goods inventory and very soon after couldn't make shipments to customers! They had a process …”

Continue reading this entry at The Lean Edge »

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1 Comment
  1. Anonymous says

    Lean can be too lean if the organization is not ready. It is easier to design and initiate than transform the culture.

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