The transformative power of Lean ideas on the gemba


Why Lean? How is it any different from other management approaches? Why, after 25 years is it still equally important and has, paradoxically, spawn a bevy of trends that have all come and gone?

The wonder of Lean comes from its transformative power on the shop floor. The magic moment of Lean is when you share with the people who do the work:

  • an observation, you show them some obvious difficulty or muda
  • a tool, an analysis method where they will look at what they do differently
  • a visualization principle so that they will structure their workplace in a way that every one better understands success and how to improve the way they work
  • an idea that makes the entire business look different

And these moments then trigger a new chain of thought, attempts at a different way of doing things that leads to better, more mindful, more productive ways of working together.

I never tire of these magic moments. I hate the maturity frameworks and the over-rational roadmaps and evaluations and all the ways corporate turns lean into yet another soul-crunching “you must do this regardless of whether you agree or not or whether it works or not.” This is not Lean.

Lean is like gardening: you till the soil with observation, you seed it with a new thought, you watch a green sprout come out as someone does something new, out of which, sometimes a splendid tree will grow if you nurture it with constant kaizen.

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