The Four Themes of Lean

“Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” - Michael Jordan

The last week has been exciting in that I got to talk to and hear from a host of friends and colleagues relative to lean thinking. It's amazing how many people are running on parallel tracks as we all work towards building cultures of continuous improvement.

The question I posed last week was around identifying common themes inside many of the books that have been written on lean and business excellence. I wasn’t surprised to receive several comments and great feedback. The answer to my question seemed obvious and intuitive to many people, which makes me think many of us are watching the same movie. Perhaps this has something to do with our collective experience and lessons learned?

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Lean Thinking is Reading

“The secret of culture is to learn that a few great points steadily reappear…and that these few are alone to be regarded…these are the essentials...” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I try to avoid absolutes, but it’s fair to say that most lean thinkers are avid readers. Reading goes with the territory of being interested and passionate about a topic. And when lean thinkers read, they do so with purpose.

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Lean and the Adjacent Thinker

My undergraduate degree is in mathematics. Not just mathematics, but pure mathematics. This means that I learned the actual theorems for equations that engineering students and applied mathematicians get to utilize. The fact that I have a degree in pure mathematics may sound impressive, but don't hold me in too high esteem too quickly as I'm not sure I purposely chose the major. With the past being a bit hazy, something tells me I did not get accepted into engineering school. Apparently, there are always seats available in pure mathematics. Don't feel too sorry for me though, as I do now have a passion for numbers and how they work. So, it all worked out as lean and numbers have a close relationship.

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Lean is Systems Thinking

Several years ago, I walked by my oldest daughter’s bedroom and noticed her writing feverishly at her desk. Considering she was no more than seven at the time, my curiosity was peaked and I stuck my head in.

“What ya doing, honey?”

“Hey, Dad. I’m writing the governors of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to tell them not to hurt the wolves.”

This was enough for me to stop and get some details.

The story of the wolf – particularly in Yellowstone Park – is a narrative, in and of itself, around the challenges of solving complicated problems.

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Lean Begins With Interest

It would be an understatement to say that my high school years were less than stellar. It really was a tough go for me for a variety of reasons and challenges, most of which were of my own making.  For certain, though, nobody ever accused me of being lazy. In fact, if I go back into my files, I recall the firmly established family statement of “Robert appears to have an overabundance of unproductive enthusiasm.”

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What is the Lean Enterprise?

My brother is a psychologist in the amazing northern gold mining town of Timmins, Ontario. We often try to spend time together in the south so he can enjoy some sun.  Recently, we were hiking in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky and, at one point during our hike, he stopped me to let me know that I wasn't actually hiking with him. His observation was that I was thirty-feet ahead, and it appeared as if I was ruminating. I had to ask him what ruminating meant. 

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Is Reflection a Lost Art?

A close friend recently asked me if I thought writing is a lost art. “Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Mostly,” she said, “because all I see these days are people writing on social media, in short bursts, with multiple typos, poor grammar, and no rigor to the thoughtfulness of the message.”

Having still not answered her question, I thought for a little bit, mostly about why I personally like to write.

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Lessons in Lean : Lessons in Leadership - The Blog

There is no question that building an organizational culture of continuous improvement is a progressive evolution that takes time. In this blog, Robert Martichenko discusses his lessons learned while building these cultures in our new world of constant disruption - sharing key knowledge that will lead today’s business leaders down the path toward discovering hidden profit. 

Interested in a particular topic or have a question? Let Robert know!

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