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A Lean Prognostication

Because I have a bit of an uncommon working situation, it can be interesting when people ask what I do for a living. I can say I own a business, that I’m a consultant, that I’m an author, that I do corporate training, or that I run an online store. Inevitably, though, there is a follow-up question, and I mention Lean.

In some industries and professions, the term is immediately recognized. From most people, though, I get a polite nod, but it is clear that they’ve never heard of the term.

So my prediction…Lean will be a household word within the next 20 years. Why? Because there is a labor shortage looming on the horizon. Forbes (March 1, 2010) says that the percent of workers over 55 has doubled to 20% in the last 20 years. Despite the high unemployment going on right now, there is a graying of the workforce, and eventually, gray hair leads to retirement. As a result, companies will be forced to figure out how to make do with fewer employees from a diminishing talent pool.

That will put pressure on managers to make teams more productive. Of course, those already practicing Lean will know what to do. Those who do not will be at a significant disadvantage come promotion time. The future leaders of the business world will have to be strongly grounded in Lean to advance very far.

What do you think about my prediction? Am I on the money, or is there something else on the horizon that you think will help overcome this problem?


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Share Your Thoughts    |2 comments|


  • Jeff Hajek says:

    The nice thing about making a 20 year prediction is that nobody is going to remember it if I’m wrong in 2030…
    In truth, I don’t know what the future is going to hold, but I see the pressures that are often present in a company that changes its ways in a crisis are becoming more of a constant rather than an exception. Traditional management is going to struggle with the new world that is evolving.

    Thanks for commenting, Mark.


  • Mark Welch says:

    I wish I could believe that lean will be a household word in 20 years, but unfortunately I think there will still be a lot of the traditional management thinking out there. When we look at the rate of lean failures – how few of them actually make the true cultural conversion (I’ve heard estimates all the way from 5% to 20%) – it doesn’t bode well. I’m in healthcare, there is a nursing shortage, and it’s been very slow to take hold in this field, so labor shortage hasn’t forced lean thinking. There are a few gleaming successes of lean in healthcare, but the verdict is still out as to whether or not it will truly become the management philosophy of choice.

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