Notes & My Short Talk from the #Lean Transformation Summit, #Lean14


lean geekIt's been fun attending the annual Lean Transformation Summit (produced by LEI). Today is Day 2. I took some notes from Day 1 and Tom Ehrenfeld has been “live blogging” it a bit on the LEI site. Tom also took and posted a picture of me in my spiffy “Lean Geek” t-shirt.

LEI had a few experiments with this year's Summit. One was the use of “open space technology” for a session yesterday afternoon where attendees self organized into discussion groups on these questions that were generated by the attendees.

The second experiment was a learning session that had four short ten-minute talks from different attendees who had submitted a proposal… including me.

Somewhat patterned after TED Talks, but shorter, some wanted to call these “JIM Talks” (for Jim Womack), but he humbly refused. Somebody suggested that JIM could mean “Journeys in Management,” which I thought was a good idea. So, anyway, they were “Lean Talks.”

My talk had a title of:

Kaizen Success: From Making Excuses to Solving Problems

The description I submitted was:

We often hear people say that continuous improvement is important (often stated on websites, mission statements, etc.) but when it comes down to it, leaders say things like “we don't have time for kaizen.” The most effective organizations don't let things like that become as an excuse… they turn those into problem statements. If kaizen is important, how can we CREATE time for kaizen? I can share some examples from healthcare organizations that are moving from excuses to action, turning everybody into a problem solver every day.

Below is a video of my session that LEI posted. You can also view the slides via SlideShare.

When faced with “barriers to Kaizen” — are you a victim who hides behind those excuses or a leader who helps solve those problems?

You might see some form of excuse making in your organization… or maybe when you look in the mirror. Are you willing to speak up when you see excuses being made? Can you ask people to reframe things as problems to be solved?

I think it's great to see LEI experimenting with new wrinkles and approaches. I liked the open space session and I enjoyed the other short ten-minute talks. I hope LEI continues both experiments and I heard feedback from others saying the same).

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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. A couple of thoughts that may explain some of this:

    Many introductions to Lean leaders talk about the role of eliminating overburden and unevenness as a start in continuous improvement. This is rarely done and in fact some leaders even pile on more overburden and unevenness as they mistakingly add Kaizen as new management approach while maintaining all of the elements of the old management approach. This is particularly insidious for leaders who think that Kaizen is only for subordinates and not for themselves.

    The next is the tension David Mann talks about that requires lots of extra effort (lots of Kaizen) to put out enough fires to make a noticable difference in being able to focus on Kaizen. Michael Balle’ refers to this as getting to a stable enough place to allow for Kaizen. Even with eliminating overburden and unevenness getting to a stable place is very difficult.


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