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POLL: How long will it take a typical company to become Lean?

One of the questions that many people have when they start a Lean journey is, “How long will it take?” Now, the truth is, this question is nearly impossible to answer. The motivation and resources of the company, the quality of the leadership, the presence of a crisis, and a host of other factors affect the speed with which a company embraces change.

Compounding the issue is the fact that there is no clear line of demarcation where a company is not Lean one day, and then has a continuous improvement culture the next. And even if there was a clear line, most companies that actually are becoming Lean will realize that there are better things to spend resources measuring than how Lean one is. So, knowing that this is not really a question that can be answered, I am going to ask it anyway.

How long will it take a typical company to become Lean? 

The purpose is really to get a sense for how hard the Lean community feels a Lean journey is. Unfortunately, many companies that undertake the challenge of adopting Lean principles abandon the process before the cultural changes take root. I suspect a large part of that stems from the fact that they did not know what they were getting into when they started. As the transition drags on and the champions move to different positions, it is easy for the budding continuous improvement culture to whither. Having a better understanding of the time and resources they will have to commit will discourage those that are on the bubble and better prepare those that are willing to do what it takes to change.

How long will it take a typical company to become "Lean"?

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  • Jeff, the difficulty with the question is that there are so many “it depends” factors. First, it depends how you define the end state, or the “ideal state of lean.” Maybe the right answer is that you are never there… it is a continuous journey.

    Another “it depends” is how large and complex is the organization? And, what is their starting point? And, to what degree does the leadership of the organization understand what their job is in creating lean culture and systems.

    So… I don’t think there is a “right” answer.

    • Jeff Hajek says:

      Hi Lawrence,
      I agree that this is a challenging questions for the reasons you mentioned. My goal in asking was just to have something to reference when new companies are contemplating Lean. There’s a pretty high dropout rate for companies that start on a Lean path. My hypothesis is that part of the reason is that they are unprepared for the degree of commitment they will need to make significant progress.
      Thanks for commenting.

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