Podcast #212 – David Mann on Creating a Lean Culture for Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Beyond


david mann creating a lean culture 3

Today's guest is David Mann (bio), talking about the new 3rd edition of his Shingo Research Award winning book Creating a Lean Culture. David tells us what's new in the book and we discuss “leader standard work” and other elements of a Lean culture.

David also talks about the difference between “Lean production” and a “Lean management system,” and we discuss forcing “compliance” versus leaders teaching and learning in the workplace. What is the role of executives in creating a Lean culture? I hope you enjoy the discussion. David was also one of my earliest podcast guests, back in Episode #9.

For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/212.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS or via Apple Podcasts.  You can also listen via Stitcher.

Podcast eBook:

Feedback & Comments:

If you have feedback on the podcast, or any questions for me or my guests, you can email me at leanpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave a voicemail by calling the “Lean Line” at (817) 993-0630 or contact me via Skype id “mgraban”. Please give your location and your first name. Any comments (email or voicemail) might be used in follow ups to the podcast.

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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. Dr. Mann’s original thesis was the best way to change behaviors is to change the way we act. From the interview and listening between the lines, I think Dr. Mann no longer believes that and neither do I. Put in huddles, idea boards, visual controls, multi-level follow-up and leaders and staff will adopt a lean mentality. My own data point also says that this isn’t true or only true to a limited degree. Put in these lean tools or systems and five years later many leaders, including executives, are no more effective (dumber) than they were before they started. Dr. Mann says that executives can chase down the weak link by going out and rounding and asking the right questions. What if the weak link is the executive? Does anyone believe that the executive will self-identify that they just don’t get it or that they’ve failed to communicate what is important to their next level down?

    Dr. Mann says that the lean folks should treat executives like customers. Maybe so, but in my own mind it is hard to believe that leaders at any level in Toyota consider themselves customers. I could make the argument that we treat executives too much like customers and by doing so we are doing Lean in places that are doomed to failure. In essence, we skip a vital step in order to get Lean underway, but by skipping this step we are limiting how successful the Lean implementation can be or are dooming the Lean transformation entirely.

    I think the real problem in most Lean implementations is that the Lean transformation community ignores the necessity to bring the c-suite executives up to a certain level of personal mastery of some very basic (but not easy) Lean concepts before moving forward with implementation. Learn-as-you go doesn’t work well for the C-suite compared to learn-in-advance.

    Karen Martin recently wrote that in a Lean leadership learning activity she lead, only 2 percent of the participants were readily able to identify the the problem for a situatation that was posed. Really? Should we not question the competency of the other 98 percent of supposedly competent leadership? How can we effectively be leading Lean when such a basic skill such as problem identification is missing?

    I do appreciate Dr. Mann identifying that there are clear differences between tactical and strategic lean leadership and his description of unit assessments. I am looking forward to applying this more specific approach.

    I am also intrigued with Dr. Mann’s comments about how surprised he was with the many successful adaptations of Lean he has seen. I have seen too many “by the book” Lean transformations where indeed, leaders and implementers are just going through the checklist but not really fundamentally improving.

    I should have two copies of Dr. Mann’s 3rd edition on my desk come Monday morning; one for me and one for my boss.

    Thank you Mark for making this kind of stuff available.

    • I think we can’t expect to put in artifacts of Lean thinking, like boards, visual management, and expect the actual thinking to change. How often do idea boards become a way for leaders to blame or punish people for reporting problems? How often are the boards and ideas ignored?

      I see one of the biggest glaring problems with Lean healthcare being that CEOs think it’s a program to implement and something that can be delegated without their involvement.

      How many hospital CEOs have board members or advisors in the community that can challenge them to change their ways and behaviors? This happened for John Toussaint at ThedaCare and for Gary Kaplan at Virginia Mason.

      I’m not surprised with Karen’s assessment. When I’ve done problem solving training in an organization, I’ve found that good problem solving skills are LESS likely there at higher levels of the organization. Why? People get promoted for being the ones to jump to solutions and to take action. There are often decades of bad habits in hospital senior leaders. This can’t change overnight. They often don’t want to change or don’t see the need to change.

  2. Mark/David,

    Great podcast! I listened to this one while driving the kids from NC to TN to visit family during the holidays and thoroughly enjoyed the discussion.

    I especially liked the emphasis on answering the “What’s in it for me?” It definitely prompts the lean leader to give pause and examine their approach.

    I also liked the deep dive into the Gemba Walk with the executive? I agree with the approach, we can teach all of the tools that are applicable, but until the leader closest to the process sees with a lean eye and is bought in, this is just an intrusion into their status quo, not part of the standard work or process DNA.

    Thanks for sharing!


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