Blog Archives

Always Be Improving

“If it’s not improving, it’s degrading”
— Toyota

This is a quote that I found a few years ago from someone at Toyota. I find this to be a very powerful quote.

The quote implies there is no status quo. As an organization, a process or a person, you are either improving or degrading.

Some will make the argument that their metrics are holding steady and haven’t moved; therefore, they are holding in a constant state or in status quo. And that may be true, but while you are holding there are others that are improving. This is degrading your status.

A great example of this is GM. The maintained what they were doing for years, while Toyota kept improving, slowly degrading GM’s status over time until Toyota passed them.

We should be working to improve at all times. Being satisfied with where we are at does nothing but cause problems down the road.

How are you pushing to improve everyday? Every year?

Survival is Not Mandatory

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory”

 — Dr. Edwards Deming

I always liked this quote from Dr. Deming.  I thought it really highlighted the importance of change.

The point is that you don’t have to change, but it is key to survival.  Over time everything changes and you must be able to keep up with the changes and adapt or change also.  If you don’t, things will pass you up and eventually you won’t survive.

This rarely happens overnight.  GM is a great example.  For decades, they did not change a single thing about there management, accounting and manufacturing practices.  Finally, after the turn of the century Toyota caught and overtook GM as the #1 car manufacturer.  Profits are higher.  Quality is higher.

Even with the stumble by Toyota a few years ago with the quality issues, they maintained their profitability and continued to change.

There comes a time where every company needs to change its practices in order to survive.  In some cases, it may take years or decades to feel the pressure (GM) and in some cases it may take a few months (tech companies).

Of course, you don’t have to change, because there is nothing to say you have to survive.

Opportunity is Dressed as Hard Work




“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”

                                         —Thomas Edison



I found this quote awhile back and have kept it close ever since.  It is one that reminds me that if I want to make a difference I need to work hard for it.

From a lean lens, this means digging in and finding the true root cause of the waste.  Not putting a band aide on the issue or treating just the symptom of the problem.  It is hard work to take the time to dig deep and find the true root cause.  It is hard work to have patience to continue to understand the problem when everyone around you is jumping to conclusions and solutions without understanding the problem.  It is hard work to do things right.

But if we do put on those overalls and do the hard work, in the end we create better change and better improvements.  That will also help us standout from the crowd who mostly is looking for the easy, shiny, magic silver bullet so they don’t mess up their clean suits.  That can be very rewarding.  That is what can keep us motivated and moving along.

Lean Quote Reader Participation: Can’t Please Everybody

Tim McMahon, who runs the blog A Lean Journey, posts a quote every Friday and discusses how it relates to lean.  Tim does a great job of pulling quotes from all types of sources.  I like it and look forward to it every Friday.

With that in mind, I want to try something similar but with a different twist on it.  The success of this depends on you, the readers of this blog, and your participation.  I will post a quote and in the comment section I would like you to tell me how this quote might resonant with you and what you are doing to implement, coach, teach, and practice lean.

Like everything else, lets experiment and see how this works.


“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

—Bill Cosby

I look forward to reading your thoughts on how this quote might relate to what you are doing with lean.