Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Untold Secret To Lean

The Untold Secret to Whole Business Improvement with Lean Thinking and the Lies you’ve been told about Lean so far!

More companies are becoming frustrated with their efforts to reduce waste and improve profits by implementing lean tools. In this article, we explore the untold secret of Lean and expose why so many companies have failed to deliver the results promised by Lean Thinking.

I’ve been teaching Lean tools for a decade. I was introduced to the tools when I was working as a Tier-1 supplier for Toyota. Before that, I was a proponent of TQM, SPC, and Six Sigma. The tools and foundation of lean thinking has been with me for most of my working career. It was not until I was in my third year as a Lean Consultant that I realized why Lean does not work for many companies. Why they report disappointing results and why the journey to becoming a lean enterprise eludes so many organizations.

Contrary to popular belief, lean thinking is NOT about reducing waste. It is NOT about value through the customer’s eyes, and it is NOT about applying tools on the value stream.

Like many lean practitioners, I got caught up in applying the tools. Identifying the value stream. Eliminating waste. Introducing flow, laying out work cells, implementing kanban, pull and staging kaizen events. In the process, I missed the point. The point that most companies miss. The secret to what makes lean work anywhere.

The tools seem pretty sexy and we get caught up in the buzz about what tool works where. What is the bottleneck process? How can I elevate the constraint? Why I should not try to solve all the problems at once?

Looking back, every book and training presentation I reviewed about lean touched on the secret. But somehow, I missed it. And I’m betting you did too. So here it is, simply and concisely. The “secret” to making lean work anywhere:

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