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What's at the Core of Lean?

I pulled a muscle in my back playing basketball a few days ago, and it is surprising how much movement the core of your body is a part of.

Things you don’t realize—reaching for a computer mouse, pulling open a window, and even picking things up off the floor—all caused more than mild discomfort.

I’m feeling much better now, thanks to a few days of rest and a very caring wife. The downtime gave me time to think about how much easier everything is with core strength. The same is true with Lean.

I’ve gotten my wake-up call to get focused back on basic fitness if I want to prolong my time on the court. But what should you be focusing on in your company to improve its core?

While I frequently mention the continuous improvement culture as the cornerstone of a successful Lean company, there are a few things that are even more central than that.

5S. Standard Work. Daily Management.

It’s as simple as that. Get good at those three things, and everything else about Lean comes much more easily. It’s like having a strong, healthy back. When you’ve got that core strength, you can build on it, do more, and try more complicated things. When the core is weak, even attempting some seemingly basic tasks can be brutal.

Imagine trying to implement kanban without having the rigor to follow the process, or keep things properly labeled and in their right spots. Imagine trying to create flow without standard processes to provide stability. Imagine trying to improve lead time when you don’t have any idea about what work is in progress.

5S. Standard Work. Daily Management. Strengthen those three things, and the rest comes easy.


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