Lean Says, “Do the Right Thing”

A question that I get quite often is “What does lean say to do?”

My short answer, “Do the right thing for your situation at this time.”

When lean is not understood people think lean has magic answers for them.  This is easy to do when the mindset is lean is a bunch of tools and concepts that just need to be put into place.

They think lean can answer their questions.   Lean does not answer your questions.  Lean helps you to be able to answer your questions.

When lean is understood to be a way of thinking, a set of principles to help guide how you go about solving a problem then it is easier to understand that lean says, “Do the right thing for your situation at this time.”

A popular example is when people think “Lean says I have to have level flow, because I have to eliminate waste.”  If their business does not allow level flow or it does not make sense at that time they can get discouraged and believe lean is not for their business.

Hospitals are a great example.  Early on they tried to implement level flow, but they couldn’t because people getting sick is out of their control.

When it is understood that lean is about creating value for the customer, people have a different lens.  One way to deliver value is to eliminate waste so I have more capacity to do value added activities.  Level flow is one way, but in a hospital there are many other ways.  Once the thinking was understood, hospitals started to embrace lean.

The next you you hear someone ask, “What does lean say to do?”  Answer by saying, “Think in a different way and do what is right for your situation at this time.”

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Posted on January 3, 2013, in Customer Focus, Principles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I hope everyone had a happy new year!

  2. I love this post. The thought that the tools themselves are the answers are an early sign that a lean initiative will fail. It will only work as a project and until that project is complete lean will no longer be active.

    • Great call out, Patrick. It isn’t about the tools at all. It is about the thinking and doing what is best for your situation at that time with a ideal state always in mind.

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