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To lean, or not to lean?

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 02-05-10

Should you start lean in a difficult period such as this? But shouldn’t I wait things out? Shouldn’t I take it slow? Or keep my head down? No. I think this is a great time for companies to be focused on a lean journey. Here are my reasons.

  1. Companies will only do it because it’s going to help them improve, not just because it’s a fad. People don’t have time for a fad right now.  
  2. Most companies are much more clear than ever about their big problems. They know what they are and are focused on doing something about it. And this can help focus a lean journey on the right objectives.
  3. Employees from top to bottom are a little more willing to step out of the comfort zone and try different things. This is because they realize everyone must do their part. And lean takes a little extra. It’s not easy, and requires some personal risk as people learn new behaviors. Take advantage of people’s willingness.
  4. Customers are looking more carefully for things like service and reliability. Use lean to start improving what you can delivery to customers and you will win some loyalty that you can carry into the future (assuming you don’t blow it).
  5. There is a ton of lean talent out there. People with experience, people with skill, people with knowledge – and they’re underutilized. Get the help you need and get going.

So stop waiting for the “right time.” There is no perfect time. Now is as good as it gets. Get started. Go to a class or read a book. And then take action.

Comments

  • To start lean today is always better then start it tomorrow…
    It means you have one more day in your lean journey. And who works with lean principles every day knows what can be achieved in one single day…

    Dragan Bosnjak February 5, 2010 at 7:10 am
  • To start lean today is always better then start it tomorrow…
    It means you have one more day in your lean journey. And who works with lean principles every day knows what can be achieved in one single day…

    Dragan Bosnjak February 5, 2010 at 7:10 am
  • To start lean today is always better then start it tomorrow…
    It means you have one more day in your lean journey. And who works with lean principles every day knows what can be achieved in one single day…

    Dragan Bosnjak February 5, 2010 at 7:10 am
  • Agree with you 100% on this Jamie, especially if in a particular organization’s H X V X F is truly > R. If the leadership has the courage, faith, and gumption to get after it, it’s time to get started.

    Mark Welch February 5, 2010 at 11:39 am
  • Agree with you 100% on this Jamie, especially if in a particular organization’s H X V X F is truly > R. If the leadership has the courage, faith, and gumption to get after it, it’s time to get started.

    Mark Welch February 5, 2010 at 11:39 am
  • Agree with you 100% on this Jamie, especially if in a particular organization’s H X V X F is truly > R. If the leadership has the courage, faith, and gumption to get after it, it’s time to get started.

    Mark Welch February 5, 2010 at 11:39 am
  • Agree, there is never a right or even wrong time to start. If you are committed and you have support get started. The opportunities won’t solve themselves. Waiting never made anything easier.

    This is a journey as we know. You can’t see the path until you take the first step.

    TIm McMahon February 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm
  • Agree, there is never a right or even wrong time to start. If you are committed and you have support get started. The opportunities won’t solve themselves. Waiting never made anything easier.

    This is a journey as we know. You can’t see the path until you take the first step.

    TIm McMahon February 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm
  • Agree, there is never a right or even wrong time to start. If you are committed and you have support get started. The opportunities won’t solve themselves. Waiting never made anything easier.

    This is a journey as we know. You can’t see the path until you take the first step.

    TIm McMahon February 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm
  • Jamie

    You are right on the only way that Lean and its required behaviour cahnges can take hold is when there is a real need.

    The tools alone only achieve half of what they could when there is no real need. If compasnies wait the blow a golden opportunity to truly change their enterprise.

    If they wait they will lose out on the current feeling that things need to change. No one likes change, and when they are confortable they will fight it, but when they are suffering they will at least try it, to see if it can make a real difference.

    Additionally when we are suffering something that offers real hope becomes a much easier sell across an organization.

    Robert Drescher February 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm
  • Jamie

    You are right on the only way that Lean and its required behaviour cahnges can take hold is when there is a real need.

    The tools alone only achieve half of what they could when there is no real need. If compasnies wait the blow a golden opportunity to truly change their enterprise.

    If they wait they will lose out on the current feeling that things need to change. No one likes change, and when they are confortable they will fight it, but when they are suffering they will at least try it, to see if it can make a real difference.

    Additionally when we are suffering something that offers real hope becomes a much easier sell across an organization.

    Robert Drescher February 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm
  • Jamie

    You are right on the only way that Lean and its required behaviour cahnges can take hold is when there is a real need.

    The tools alone only achieve half of what they could when there is no real need. If compasnies wait the blow a golden opportunity to truly change their enterprise.

    If they wait they will lose out on the current feeling that things need to change. No one likes change, and when they are confortable they will fight it, but when they are suffering they will at least try it, to see if it can make a real difference.

    Additionally when we are suffering something that offers real hope becomes a much easier sell across an organization.

    Robert Drescher February 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm
  • I appreciate the message.

    For me, I would not have read the article because of the title if I hadn’t known that you were the author, Jamie.

    Great message and I agree.

    Pete Abilla February 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm
  • I appreciate the message.

    For me, I would not have read the article because of the title if I hadn’t known that you were the author, Jamie.

    Great message and I agree.

    Pete Abilla February 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm
  • I appreciate the message.

    For me, I would not have read the article because of the title if I hadn’t known that you were the author, Jamie.

    Great message and I agree.

    Pete Abilla February 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm
  • Thank you everyone for your comments

    Pete, perhaps I got a little too cutsie with the title.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh February 5, 2010 at 5:45 pm
  • Thank you everyone for your comments

    Pete, perhaps I got a little too cutsie with the title.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh February 5, 2010 at 5:45 pm
  • Thank you everyone for your comments

    Pete, perhaps I got a little too cutsie with the title.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh February 5, 2010 at 5:45 pm
  • Get started now because there is no other time.

    Simon Ellberger February 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm
  • Get started now because there is no other time.

    Simon Ellberger February 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm
  • Get started now because there is no other time.

    Simon Ellberger February 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm
  • There is no perfect time to begin Lean and now is always better than later. Our company has been working on Lean for about two years and at times it feels like we are still just beginning. With the time it takes to really become lean now is the best time to begin.

    Roy Waterhouse February 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm
  • There is no perfect time to begin Lean and now is always better than later. Our company has been working on Lean for about two years and at times it feels like we are still just beginning. With the time it takes to really become lean now is the best time to begin.

    Roy Waterhouse February 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm
  • There is no perfect time to begin Lean and now is always better than later. Our company has been working on Lean for about two years and at times it feels like we are still just beginning. With the time it takes to really become lean now is the best time to begin.

    Roy Waterhouse February 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm
  • While I am not necessarily a fan of Rahm Emanuel, his quote of, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” rings true when considering whether to pursue lean. With that, I would add Danaher’s (at least at Jake Brake) lean slogan in the 1980’s, before Nike “borrowed” it, “Just Do It!” Presuming that there is some effective leadership in place, there are no serious excuses for not launching lean.

    Mark R Hamel February 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm
  • While I am not necessarily a fan of Rahm Emanuel, his quote of, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” rings true when considering whether to pursue lean. With that, I would add Danaher’s (at least at Jake Brake) lean slogan in the 1980’s, before Nike “borrowed” it, “Just Do It!” Presuming that there is some effective leadership in place, there are no serious excuses for not launching lean.

    Mark R Hamel February 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm
  • While I am not necessarily a fan of Rahm Emanuel, his quote of, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” rings true when considering whether to pursue lean. With that, I would add Danaher’s (at least at Jake Brake) lean slogan in the 1980’s, before Nike “borrowed” it, “Just Do It!” Presuming that there is some effective leadership in place, there are no serious excuses for not launching lean.

    Mark R Hamel February 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm
  • Mark, I think that’s an important point in any change management. For the record, Rahm didn’t originate it. I would have to do my research to remember who it was, but I think it was a president. I have noticed more and more politicians these days tend to borrow quotes from other famous people without attribution, which I think is a shame.

    I should add the comment that I think there are valid reasons to delay a start. They are very specific reasons, and I have advised clients (or more accurately, potential future clients) that they shouldn’t start lean right now. In one example, the senior management was about to go through over 50 percent turnover. It was best to get through that period first, and then get focused on lean. In another case, they were a short distance away from a major reorganization and layoff due to economic reasons. It was better to wait to get through that so that they would not be false associated.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh February 7, 2010 at 5:23 pm
  • Mark, I think that’s an important point in any change management. For the record, Rahm didn’t originate it. I would have to do my research to remember who it was, but I think it was a president. I have noticed more and more politicians these days tend to borrow quotes from other famous people without attribution, which I think is a shame.

    I should add the comment that I think there are valid reasons to delay a start. They are very specific reasons, and I have advised clients (or more accurately, potential future clients) that they shouldn’t start lean right now. In one example, the senior management was about to go through over 50 percent turnover. It was best to get through that period first, and then get focused on lean. In another case, they were a short distance away from a major reorganization and layoff due to economic reasons. It was better to wait to get through that so that they would not be false associated.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh February 7, 2010 at 5:23 pm
  • Mark, I think that’s an important point in any change management. For the record, Rahm didn’t originate it. I would have to do my research to remember who it was, but I think it was a president. I have noticed more and more politicians these days tend to borrow quotes from other famous people without attribution, which I think is a shame.

    I should add the comment that I think there are valid reasons to delay a start. They are very specific reasons, and I have advised clients (or more accurately, potential future clients) that they shouldn’t start lean right now. In one example, the senior management was about to go through over 50 percent turnover. It was best to get through that period first, and then get focused on lean. In another case, they were a short distance away from a major reorganization and layoff due to economic reasons. It was better to wait to get through that so that they would not be false associated.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh February 7, 2010 at 5:23 pm
  • Jamie,

    Agreed. I guess I over-generalized! I too, on more than several occasions, have delayed a lean launch either company-wide or at a given location due to leadership deficiencies and/or impending downsizing actions.

    For example, one automotive supplier needed desperately to pare down costs. It was a life or death situation. We knew that the right thing to do was to design and deploy a value stream-based organization and, at the same time, reduce head count. We did not associate the reorganization specifically with lean. We used a very inclusive and participative approach (with much more that just the senior execs), to design the new organization and to craft the roll-out and messaging (proof of the need, vision, etc.). After the reorg, lean was launched consistent with the preparatory strategy deployment work and value stream analysis(es). With the launch, the proper promise was made that no one would lose their employment as a result of productivity improvements.

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Mark R Hamel February 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm
  • Jamie,

    Agreed. I guess I over-generalized! I too, on more than several occasions, have delayed a lean launch either company-wide or at a given location due to leadership deficiencies and/or impending downsizing actions.

    For example, one automotive supplier needed desperately to pare down costs. It was a life or death situation. We knew that the right thing to do was to design and deploy a value stream-based organization and, at the same time, reduce head count. We did not associate the reorganization specifically with lean. We used a very inclusive and participative approach (with much more that just the senior execs), to design the new organization and to craft the roll-out and messaging (proof of the need, vision, etc.). After the reorg, lean was launched consistent with the preparatory strategy deployment work and value stream analysis(es). With the launch, the proper promise was made that no one would lose their employment as a result of productivity improvements.

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Mark R Hamel February 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm
  • Jamie,

    Agreed. I guess I over-generalized! I too, on more than several occasions, have delayed a lean launch either company-wide or at a given location due to leadership deficiencies and/or impending downsizing actions.

    For example, one automotive supplier needed desperately to pare down costs. It was a life or death situation. We knew that the right thing to do was to design and deploy a value stream-based organization and, at the same time, reduce head count. We did not associate the reorganization specifically with lean. We used a very inclusive and participative approach (with much more that just the senior execs), to design the new organization and to craft the roll-out and messaging (proof of the need, vision, etc.). After the reorg, lean was launched consistent with the preparatory strategy deployment work and value stream analysis(es). With the launch, the proper promise was made that no one would lose their employment as a result of productivity improvements.

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Mark R Hamel February 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm