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Personal Kaizen: Getting Lean the Lean Way

After sitting for countless hours in front of the computer when I was writing my Lean book, I noticed that my washer and dryer started to malfunction. They started shrinking my pants.

OK, maybe it wasn’t the dryer’s fault. It might have had something to do with my lack of activity.

Getting Lean the Lean Way

I decided to do something about the few excess pounds when my book was done. I embarked on a personal kaizen. Coincidentally, about the same time, a friend showed me a device he wore on his arm that tracked the calories he burned. In addition to wearing the armband every day, he also recorded the food he ate in an online database. The system reconciled the inputs and outputs, compiling daily results, plus produced lots of nice little charts and graphs.

The device, and weight loss in general, gives me a way to explain continuous improvement to my non-manufacturing friends. Getting your body lean is a lot like getting Lean in a company.

  • Just like a body is healthier when it is Lean, a company is more agile and responsive when it is not bloated with inventory.
  • Just like I use my real-time information to adjust what I eat when my calorie balance gets out of whack, a company that tracks metrics can also do immediate countermeasures.
  • Just like I am able to see patterns and trends in my eating habits, a company can use continuous improvement tools like the Pareto (80/20) Chart to identify the biggest areas for improvement.

Most importantly, for both me and for a company, becoming Lean requires goal setting. Having targets lets you break a big task down into little chunks. To lose 10 pounds means you have to burn about 35,000 calories more than you take in. If you only have a week, that would be virtually impossible. If you have a year to reach your goal, that’s less than a hundred calories a day. Much more achievable and more sustainable.

How do you go about breaking your big Lean goals into smaller, easier to manage slices?


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