Why Lean Manufacturing… is Less Fun Than Google Autocomplete?


There's a fun game you can play online in your browser… and it's free.

Start typing a phrase into the Google search box (or into the top bar of your Chrome browser, as I tend to do).

The “autocomplete” suggestions from Google give some sense of what people are searching for, among other factors.

Somebody even created a game called “Google Feud,” similar to “Family Feud,” as you can read about in this article about autocomplete.

For example, typing “who was the first” leads to some interesting suggestions:

If we start playing this game with Lean-related terms, it quickly takes a dark and negative turn:

“Why lean manufacturing…”

  • fails?
  • doesn't work?
  • does not work?
  • is important

Yikes, three of those four are negative, even if two of them are basically the same thing.

Are people searching for phases about Lean and failure because they're being negative (or having negative experiences with what might be L.A.M.E. instead of Lean)? Or because they're being proactive and trying to prevent problems? There is a book on How to Prevent Lean Implementation Failures, but I'm not sure people are searching for that rather obscure book.

Searching for a similar phrase about lean healthcare only brings up a negative response about failure:

If we try “what” instead of “why,” the terms show which Lean methods are being searched for… it's more a list of concepts than anything negative or positive:

Starting with “what are” brings up this list:

“Where” also brings up the failure search:

And if we try “how,” the phrase “backfire” comes up:

Here is a post that talks about “lean backfiring” (or was it L.A.M.E.?):

Be Careful With “No Waiting Rooms” Just Like “Zero Inventories”

If we try searches on some of the more common Lean methods, there's some negativity about 5S being a “waste of time.”

It can be, if done poorly:

A search about six sigma doesn't bring up negativity:

Not does the “how” search:

I'm not trying to turn this into a huge waste of time for anybody at work. It does look like you're doing research :-)

Do you find any surprising autocomplete suggestions related to Lean?

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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. You sparked my curiosity. I “typed in why is lean” in my google search bar and got bad, dangerous, illegal. Hmm…However, as you did when you typed “why is six sigma” the results were much different. I’m not trying to compare the two, but wondering why is there such a big difference in the results?


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