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The Lean Assessment Litmus Test

One of the jobs of a Lean consultant is to assess organizations to see where they are in their continuous improvement journey. There are many techniques to get a precise read on a company, but a thorough assessment can take a significant amount of time. Fortunately, there is also a quick litmus test you can use to tell if a company is serious about getting better and ‘gets it’, or if they are more interested in just using tools to make spot improvements.

I’ve been reading a book called Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman. Traction focuses on something called the ‘EOS’, or Entrepreneurial Operating System. It is a formal process that Wickman uses to help a company improve. It is a general business book, but Wickman’s ideas closely parallel what I teach companies that I am helping. (Note: I plan to do a full review on the book at some point, but want to let you know it is one of the better books I have read in a while.)

I do have my own processes that I use to help companies get better, but while I was reading the book, it dawned on me that I have a fairly short series of yes or no questions that I ask when initially looking at an organization. These questions set the tone for any work I do in the company, as it gets right to the heart of the matter. It helps me determine whether the company wants to change how they do business, which means they are going to be eager, willing, committed students of Lean, or if they are looking at Lean as a quick fix through the application of tools as band aids and will likely be resistant to change.

Now, this is the first time I am formally writing these questions out. I go through them in my head, almost instinctively, but in truth, they are what is known as a ‘hidden factory’—something that is done, but isn’t documented. It is always a good idea to formalize processes. Not only does it provide consistency to results, but is also speeds up improvement. Sharing a process creates a dialogue that leads to getting better.

I’ll list the questions here, and then, over the next several days, touch on each one in more detail. I’d love to hear your thoughts as I go through them, so I can make my process even better.

Lean Assessment Litmus Test Questions

  1. If frontline leaders hit all their individual targets, would the company hit its goals?
  2. Does the organization track progress on all its goals on a regular basis?
  3. Can frontline leaders predict what they will accomplish on any given day, within a few percent?
  4. Can frontline leaders name their 3 biggest problems and clearly state their quantitative impact?
  5. Do people thoroughly understand problems before taking action?

***See the next article in this series***


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