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Side Effects of Lean

While Lean and other continuous improvement efforts can make impressive changes in an organization, there are often some unintended side effects.

These Lean side effects include:

  • Possible accounting issues. The dramatic changes in inventory and the way costs are applied can be disruptive to financial documents. In some cases it can even appear that something negative is happening.
  • Potential employee turnover. Some employees don’t like the changes that come with the continuous improvement culture. Occasionally they choose to leave the company and even more infrequently leadership may have to terminate some employees.
  • Problems become more apparent. As you turn over rocks during kaizen activity, more and more issues are uncovered. It doesn’t mean the issues were not there before, it just means that they are now out in the open.
  • People may stand around more. As processes become more streamlined and work-in-process becomes limited, people may run out of work. Until that workload is balanced, there may be no production work available for them to do.
  • Measurements make people uncomfortable. Until they get used to it, teams are likely to feel very uncomfortable with seeing their team’s performance up on the wall for everyone to see. This is amplified in the early stages when only a few organizations have their numbers posted.

Note that all of the side effects of a Lean transformation tend to be temporary in nature. As he organization evolves, these challenges dissipate.

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