Lean Isn’t New

The last few months I have been a part of or given a lot of lean training around lean principles and/or behaviors.  The majority of  the responses to the training is very positive.  There is one response that I keep getting over and over, “There was nothing new in we heard.”

While I believe there is some new things in there, overall I don’t disagree with them.  In fact, I mention that Toyota has been doing if for 60 years and they learned from methods that date back 20+ years before they started learning.  Toyota gets the credit for the business philosophy and putting it to great use, but the roots come from Ford, Deming, the supermarket, and Training Within Industry.  There is a lot more material about principles and thinking that people can reference today.  Honestly, people have probably read or heard something before.

One question, I try to pose to them is, “You have heard this before and it seems to makes sense, so what behavior have you changed since learning this in order to get better?”  I usually get blank stares and red faces because I have not had one person answer that question yet.  I am not trying to be a jerk, but we have to ask the hard questions.  I’m still learning and I don’t follow the principles and behaviors all the time either.  Neither does Toyota.

I then explain the question is not a gotcha.  It is meant to show that while many people have read/heard of it and agree with it, there are very few to actually change, because changing is hard to do.  We have to make a conscious effort to do it and it will be hard at first.  The training classes are a mechanism to try and get the change to start to occur as well as educate others that may not have heard anything yet.

So overall, I agree the principles and behaviors are not new.  What is new is trying to get more and more people to actually change to exhibit these behaviors.

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Posted on December 13, 2010, in Leadership, Learning, Principles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nice post, Matt. Just curious, is it the leadership you are training in any of these sessions? I’m wondering this because I believe this is where the change and the main impetus to change should start. Not that other associates don’t have a responsibility to change, either…

  2. The trainees are fulfilling another leanism; lean is easy to understand, but much harder to do. Not to sound too Clintonesque, but I feel your pain. Unless the top person in your plant (is that the CEO?) is reeaaaaallllly behind lean and is out there on the plant floor, asking questions, and living it, there’s certainly some reason for concern.

    Here are some other questions to ask them: “What are the barriers to moving forward? What is holding us back?” You could even do a 5-Whys on the reasons for inaction.

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