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How ‘Lean’ does Lean make you?

February 23, 2015 – by Otie Hauser &samhoud consultancy

I can become quite worked up when Lean is viewed as a set of useful tools for waste elimination and cost reduction. After participating in a green or black belt course, you use all the skills you have acquired to tackle waste. Meetings are spontaneously referred to as a ‘Kaizen’ event. The verb ‘lean’ is introduced and people are informed that they must not work harder, but more intelligently instead.

This is akin to people who want to lose weight and therefore follow a strict diet and exhaust themselves at the gym. They become frustrated with what they are allowed and not allowed to do. The moment they have shed their excess weight, they simply starting eating as they did in the past and pile on the pounds again. They are then surprised and disappointed. “The Lean diet did not work so let us try another one.”

It seems like a strange parallel to draw, but this is something I often see. People start with Lean full of energy and then drop out as time goes by. But why do so many organisations struggle with the sustainability of Lean? And does the main challenge involve embedding this way of working within the organisation’s culture and people’s behaviour?

&samhoud has studied this and the results have shocked me: most organisations are unable to embed Lean within their DNA. Why? Are they too greedy searching for the success of Lean, allowing themselves to be tempted and guided by the success stories of Toyota and other organisations? The desire for continuous improvement does exist. Every organisation wants a perfectly streamlined process that creates optimal value without any wastage. But why do they so often fail in this quest? Do organisations forget that truly successful companies have integrated the Lean philosophy within the entire system? That they do not only deploy instruments in the workplace, but also in their recruitment policy, appraisal process, management method, leadership, etc.? This entire system is often carefully built up into a way of working that has become normal. Lean is so embedded within the organisation’s DNA that there is no option other than going along with continuous improvement.

Whoever wishes to become truly Lean must adjust their lifestyle. They must eat less, follow a more varied diet and exercise more, in a way that suits them. And they must continue doing so consistently. This is the only way they can maintain the desired results.

Learn more about the integrated approach and be inspired by our cases: http://consultancy.samhoud.com/en/expertise/strategy-business-models-and-execution

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One Response to How ‘Lean’ does Lean make you?

  1. Avatar Alan Munzer says:

    How come ‘Lean’ has become so famous given that it primarily triggers associations around cost reduction and overhead removal with most people? On the other hand, a methodology called ‘Business Excellence’ or ‘Proven Path’ by Oliver Wight, that is much more focused on a balanced way of embedding change in a sustainable fashion is little known across Europe. It includes some tough but very rewarding and effective work on ‘Vision and Mission’ and large-scale empowerment initiatives engaging people to make the change last.

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