Lean Strategies

Lean Strategies for Handling Lean Problems

Frontline employees and managers face many barriers when trying to build a continuous improvement culture.

This list contains many of those problems that you may face on a daily basis in your Lean travels. It comes from the second half of my book, Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?

Each strategy contains an overview of the problem (available to everyone), a section on what to do about the problem (much of this will be available to registered users), and finally, a section on why this strategy works (only available in the print version of the book). Knowing what to do gets you started quickly; knowing why the solution works helps you apply it in other related situations.

I hope you can identify some of the Lean problems you are facing in this list. And I hope that you can use our Lean strategies to help you solve those Lean problems.


Thriving in a Continuous Improvement Culture

Strategies: Transitioning to continuous improvement values

Strategies: Communicating more effectively

Strategies: Improving relationships with peers

Strategies: Using the tools

Strategies: Upgrading your personal performance


Set the Standard in Standardization

Strategies: Establishing Standard Work

Strategies: Keeping autonomy and variety

  • Problem: You need help finding ideas for improvements.
  • Problem: You don’t want to have to change how you do your process.
  • Problem: You are having trouble getting improvements to stick—whatever you change gets changed back by someone else.
  • Problem: You don’t know how to go about making changes to Standard Work.
  • Problem: Doing the same job the same way every day bores you.
  • Problem: Your boss just took away all of your personal space.
  • Problem: You don’t want anyone coming in and telling you how to arrange your workspace.

Strategies: Using Standard Work

  • Problem: Your boss is asking you to produce more than Standard Work says you should be able to do.
  • Problem: You have the urge to work ahead to prevent problems.
  • Problem: You have “workaround” processes that cover for problems.
  • Problem: You work slower than the rest of your team.
  • Problem: Someone on your team is not carrying his or her weight.
  • Problem: A coworker hides the gains that he makes.
  • Problem: You don’t have time to keep your equipment in tip-top shape.
  • Problem: Your boss is constantly asking you to do tasks outside of Standard Work.
  • Problem: Your boss can’t easily get you help during temporary peak periods.
  • Problem: A Lean office makes you more sedentary.


Measure Up in Measurements

Strategies: Setting up metrics

Strategies: Using metrics

  • Problem: Leaders are always stopping by to check on your production board, but you don’t even know what is on it.
  • Problem: The information your boss (or a project team) needs in order to make a decision about a problem is not available.
  • Problem: The data doesn’t match how you think things are going.
  • Problem: You never see the results of data collection efforts.
  • Problem: Important tasks that are not getting measured are not getting done.
  • Problem: Your manager is not appreciating the team’s hard work.
  • Problem: You think that no other team gets measured as much as yours does.
  • Problem: Measurements are taken over a short period of time, and don’t accurately reflect how your process normally operates.
  • Problem: You have more than one boss and they measure different things.
  • Problem: Bias is hard to keep out of a measurement.
  • Problem: You don’t get the impression that the teams that support you are interested in getting better.


Be a pro at projects

Strategies: Adopting a project mentality

  • Problem: You are not quite sure how to begin your Lean adventure.
  • Problem: Lean is difficult because your boss gives you open-ended instructions.
  • Problem: You are stuck with a problem because you can’t get your boss to schedule a kaizen to fix it.
  • Problem: You seem to be doing everyone else’s job, as well as your own production work.
  • Problem: You never seem to have time to work on continuous improvement projects.

Strategies: Selecting projects

  • Problem: You don’t want your coworkers angry at you for making changes to the team’s process.
  • Problem: You’ve gotten stuck on a few projects that have bored you to tears.
  • Problem: Your project team just got together for the first time and spent most of the meeting arguing about goals and objectives.

Strategies: Being on a team

  • Problem: You get discouraged when teams have a rough time at the beginning of a project.
  • Problem: You think that friction from a project is ruining a valuable working relationship.
  • Problem: Your friends don’t seem to help you much on project teams.
  • Problem: You keep getting asked to be on project teams outside of your work area.

Strategies: Using good project etiquette

  • Problem: You have so much going on that you can’t seem to get to project meetings on time.
  • Problem: You can’t concentrate with all the side conversations going on in meetings and classes.
  • Problem: People on the team are treating each other disrespectfully.
  • Problem: Someone on the team uses sarcasm to be funny, but he is overdoing it.
  • Problem: Some of the tasks you have to do on a project team aren’t that fun.
  • Problem: You have a few people on the team that just won’t speak up. (One of those people might even be you!)
  • Problem: You are frustrated and worry that you might say something that you will regret.

Strategies: Performing on project teams

  • Problem: You can’t seem to get people to address your concerns in meetings.
  • Problem: Other people seem to have more of their ideas put into action than you do.
  • Problem: Lots of projects are happening, but things are staying the same.
  • Problem: Your boss won’t give you the money you need to buy something for a project.

Strategies: Dealing with projects in your area

  • Problem: Your work area is being kaizened, but you are not on the team.
  • Problem: You are an independent thinker and don’t like being told how to do your job.
  • Problem: You are an independent thinker and don’t like being told how to do your job.

Strategies: Coping with kaizens

  • Problem: The report out is coming up, and you are not looking forward to speaking in front of a crowd.
  • Problem: It’s 2:00 a.m. and you are still at work on the kaizen.
  • Problem: You pay a price for kaizens.
  • Problem: You think you are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to improvements.