Lean Does it Work?? Part 1

Lean – Does it Work?  Part 1 of 3

Larry Cote- President of Lean Advisors

Lean (the word) has been around for more than a decade and a half.

At Lean Advisors, we have been involved with training, adapting and applying Lean since close to its’ inception and prior to that using Deming, JIT and the other concepts or theories that were very prevalent in the 80s and 90s.  My career has given me the opportunity to ‘see’ Lean at work in 100s of organization/companies in a variety of environments including our earlier implementations in manufacturing and then as we evolved (and improved the concept) we adapted it to the service type industries such as healthcare, government, and education.

Every organization, no matter what sector, has one goal ‘to do more with what they have and do it better, faster and less cost each and every day’.  This goal or vision/direction is admirable and certainly is difficult to argue with, no matter what industry you are in.  The onus falls on the leadership to make sure their group succeeds at being the very best.  Their challenge, once they take on the role of leader, is not to understand their goal but figure out how to actually succeed in their unique culture and environment.

In some ways the goal is easy to identify and communicate but how to accomplish it is the critical decision they must make.  They must rely on their past experience, and the knowledge they have gained over their years of experience, and of course listening to others they trust, to determine the path to success.

Leaders are inundated with ideas, concepts, programs, and solutions solicited by internal and external ‘experts’ who all have the ‘solution’ and will make their journey to success happen.  Once they have collected all the ideas and options, the leader then must rely on his/her own knowledge and expertise to make the right decision on how the organization will move forward.

One of the options they may consider is Lean.  And even if they decide on Lean as the approach and thinking they will use, they are then faced with another critical and difficult decision – what is the correct method for adapting and applying Lean to maximize the results and to sustain those results.

Quickly in their decision process, they realize many people have used Lean and failed or at least have not reached their desired expectations.  And this realization or concern is fair, because most organizations that are using Lean, or tried Lean, to transform their business have not reach their potential even after many years of implementation and tons of dollars spent.

Today, this concern and lack of confidence in Lean is very apparent and we are questioned about the ‘power’ of Lean and whether it is able to live up to its’ earlier promises and early writings from the theorists.

Lean does work and extremely well, but it must be implemented the right way.

In Part 2 we will begin to uncover some of the ‘right’ ways to implement Lean and what some of the key indicators are that you should be aware of…