My Cogent, Academic Analysis of the “Fake Lean” Problem & “Muppets Most Wanted”


Today's post is published over on LinkedIn, as part of the “Influencers' program that I'm a part of.

Kermit the Frog & Lean Management: How Could Something So Right Feel So Wrong?

It's a silly piece (in honor of “Muppets Most Wanted” being released on home video today) but it has a serious message.

“Fake Lean” often looks very much like “Real Lean” (to use Bob Emilani's terms that are a bit catchier than my awkward acronym, L.A.M.E.). Fake Lean can seduce managers and Fake Lean lets you think you can do whatever you want.

Most of the complaints out there about Lean healthcare are, to my estimations, more often complaints about “Fake Lean” in some form, as I outline in the piece.

I draw parallels to the movie:

  • Kermit the Frog = Real Lean
  • Constantine, the world's most dangerous frog = Fake Lean

As illustrated below:

KERMIT constantine


KERMIT constantine fake lean real lean


I don't normally write about such a hard-core Lean topic over there on LinkedIn… but I hope it helps.

As I say in the piece… we don't have “Lean cops” who can call out “L.A.M.E.” We need to do so as a Lean community, it seems.

lean cops

There is a few section that I wrote and cut out from the LinkedIn piece for a number of reasons, but might be of interest to this audience:

People get upset about Lean and I don't blame them. On Twitter and other online venues, I hear their complaints and, while I usually agree with them that what's happening to them as wrong, I often get personally attacked in some pretty vicious terms:

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 3.51.00 PM

Obviously, my goals are improving the quality of healthcare and I've been involved in many situations where nurses, patients, and hospital administrators have personally expressed thanks for helping them improve the hospital or clinic setting (and it's the result of THEIR hard work, not mine).

But, when people have had experiences with what Bob Emiliani calls “Fake Lean,” I can't blame them for being upset. I can't blame them for lashing out at me. I can't blame them for accusing me of being “biased.” Yes, I'm “biased” that Lean can work wonderfully because I've seen it and been a part of it. But, I realize that bad things happen in the name of Lean and I can't control that.

Hope you enjoy the Muppet connection…

Remembering Robin Williams

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 7.15.56 AMThe actor Robin Williams passed away yesterday.

I wasn't only a young Muppet Show fan, but I was also an avid “Mork & Mindy” watcher. Here is “Honorary Muppet” Robin Williams interacting with some Sesame Street Muppets, talking about the word “conflict.”

“Dead Poets Society” and “Good Will Hunting” were also meaningful movies to me, and many others.

Rest in peace…


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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.


    • Yeah, we feel their pain, you’re right (and I don’t mean that in a trite Clinton-ian sense).

      But, the people who attack us lump us in with the managers they are frustrated with. I know not to take it personally. Their reality is different than my reality. I wish their reality was better (and I see the potential of that).

      The human suffering from “Fake Lean” is just about as bad as the suffering caused by traditional management approaches. The problem with “Fake Lean” is that people have been promised better… and they find that it’s more of the same. No wonder they are pissed off.

      But the managers they are pissed off about are not following any sort of playbook that you or I have published.

      • The human suffering aspect has long been a concern of mine, and I wish that more people in the Lean community would see it that way and be much stronger in their criticism of Fake Lean – especially the big influencers (people other than you) who in my view have been asleep on the job, some for more then 25 years.

  1. I am on the clinical side of things, so this terminology is not altogether familiar to me, although am pretty sure I could identify some of the lean aspects. Do you have a more specific example of “lean” versus “lame” than the amphibious Kermit & Constantine?

    • A few examples…

      L.A.M.E. = Reducing supply levels too far or consolidating them to a central location

      Lean = Putting the right amount of materials at the point of use, making it easier for nurses to find supplies (and not have things run out)

      L.A.M.E. = Telling people to put tape around everything on every work station “because it’s Lean”

      Lean = Getting input from people about how to use 5S to prevent problems and minimize waste

      Things like that.


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