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Leaders Abandon Lean When the Road Gets Bumpy.

Lean requires commitment. It is easy to have that dedication when the philosophy has proven itself in the organization. But when the culture of continuous improvement is in its infancy, it is easy to lose one’s way. A common challenge that leaders have is resisting the urge to abandon a process when things are not perfect.


Lean leaders abandon process improvement when the road gets bumpy.

How this affects you

It is discouraging and confusing to see a continuous improvement leader cast the Lean method aside when setbacks are encountered.

The principles of Lean are hard to support if they are only followed sporadically by those above you in the company. Watching your boss bend or ignore rules can inspire anger and resentment. You probably don’t think it is fair that you have to consistently follow Lean policy, but your leaders don’t.

Action to take

The boss tells you to expedite a customer order, disregarding a standard process, or he tells you to stop using the andon light because the response team is complaining about the frequency of its use.

If your manager asks you to do something non-Lean once new practices have been established in your area, confirm that the boss is asking you to set the policy aside in this situation. Obviously, you have to know the rules to recognize when something slips outside the proper routine.

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Why this works

The Why this Works section is only available in print copies of Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?.


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Share Your Thoughts    |3 comments|

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  • That makes a little more sense. Most of my work is in automated food processing plants which is a different game in some ways….

  • Jeff Hajek says:

    Granted, the andon example I only heard about in one instance, but the expedited orders is a fairly common situation. It basically entails a boss shuffling around a work sequence despite having established pull and one piece flow.
    A more common situation is when a boss asks for some extra output to meet a demand spike, but the math doesn’t add up.
    I think with best practices, you can sometimes get better short term output by taking shortcuts, but it causes longer term problems. Consider maintenance. You can skip it for a while and speed things up, but long term, it will catch up to you.

  • Jeff,

    These examples are hard to believe but I’m sure that they have happened somewhere. Your suggestion is a great way to respond to what sounds like poor leadership.

    It’s a little more understandable if a leader doesn’t pursue a full root cause analysis in the heat of the battle. You have to prioritize at times. But to set aside a best practice because you are in a hurry sounds is pretty bad.

    By definition, the best practice should be the most efficient way to make a satisfactory product for the customer. Is this leader saying that the best practice isn’t efficient or is he willing to ship substandard quality to the customer? Maybe he’s willing to hurt someone to fill the order? Interesting….


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