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3 Ways to Sneak Lean into Your Company

Let’s face it. To the person unfamiliar with Lean, it sounds like just another way to squeeze a little more out of workers. When people hear there’s something coming that can get waste out of the workplace, they worry about layoffs. And the concept that removing inventory can reduce lead time is downright counterintuitive.

So rather than try to convince people of the value of Lean, instead create the demand for it. Try these three things to get your team craving what Lean offers.

  1. Know. Get rid of words like ‘might’, ‘could’, ‘hope’, and ‘think’. Of course I am not saying to stop using one’s brain or to eliminate optimism. I am saying that when people say “We think the problem is in the…”, or “We hope this works”, it shows a lack of confidence. If people can’t definitively answer a question, they haven’t done enough preparation. I had a boss a long time ago who said, “Hope is not a method.” The lesson stuck. Confirm facts and stop operating on assumptions.
  2. Believe. Set aggressive targets for your teams to commit them to getting better. Believe in the effectiveness of Lean at enabling teams to hit those goals. This is especially effective for junior leaders and managers who have bonuses and raises tied to hitting their objectives. They end up asking for exactly what Lean offers.
  3. Predict. Ask managers and teams to predict outcomes. A great way to do this is to implement a daily management system. At the start of each morning, and at a few times each day, get an update on where the team is, and where they expect to be at the end of the day. They will get tired of being wrong all the time, and will try to figure out ways to be more consistent.

I’m going to give you a homework assignment and ask you to start today by focusing on number 1.

Listen for how many times over the next 24 hours you hear people speak without really understanding. When they say, “We believe the problem is…” rather than “The problem is…,” add one to the tally. If people can’t take a stand on an issue, they certainly don’t know enough to take action on it.

I’d love to hear your findings. Let me know how often you see this lack of understanding and whether it was surprising to you.


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