"What Is Lean's Speed Limit, If It Is Based On Speed?"

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"What Is Lean's Speed Limit, If It Is Based On Speed?"

As a discussion prompt for the Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, & Lean group on LinkedIn, a member asked the following questions:

"1. What is lean's speed limit, if it is based on speed?

2. Can lean be implemented quickly through brute force?

3. How do you implement lean quickly when management wants results now?"


Derek Browning, Lean Deployment Executive at LeanCor, provided the following value-add answers:

"1. Lean is based upon reduction of lead time through waste elimination and problem solving. As of late, we have seen many companies espousing lean while falling apart, because they became “too lean” or "went over lean’s speed limit." This was actually not because they were becoming too lean or implementing lean too fast, it was because they were ignoring basic lean principles. Basic lean principles such as elimination of muri (overburdened or unreasonableness), basic elements of stability, and quality at the source are ignored for the sake of increasing speed and getting short term results. It is important to understand, as many of the lean gurus would share, that lean is 80 percent culture and 20 percent tools. Companies are notorious for using lean tools to do produce anti-lean cultures and then calling it 'too lean' as it fails.

2. Implementing lean is not like implementing an ERP system. A software implementation can go quickly with more people, longer hours, or brute force. Lean is not exactly like that. As I mentioned above, you can implement the tools at any speed you like, but if the company’s philosophy does not adhere to lean’s basic fundamental principles, then a lot of havoc can ensue. That being said, there are tactics that can make lean launches smoother and quicker. I like to think of a company culture like a garden. As a lean champion (or gardener), you spend your time building a burning platform or a need for change (much like cultivating the ground of a garden), then you plant seeds of lean throughout all the layers of the organization. Notice with a garden you don’t plant the same seeds from end to end, you plant according to what you plan to reap. Planting seeds can be asking the right questions and pointing people to appropriate resources (blogs, training events, articles, books, etc.). Then fuel the fire a little or add fertilizer to the garden. Adding fuel doesn’t mean you incite a riot and produce instability, but you may want to ask enough provocative questions to the right people so that the only logical result would be an embrace of the lean principles. Just like a garden, however, the work is never done. There is a constant weeding and fertilization process that will need to be kept up through continuous training and problem solving.

3. I’ve never met a leader who didn’t want results. The question is what results do they want and for what type of ROI are they looking. Most of the leaders I know would not go to the bank and take out loans on their assets to send checks to the shareholders; if they would, the shareholders need to sincerely question if he or she is the right leader. The case needs to be made that lean is an investment, and some short term gains or “yesterday’s results” may be long term liabilities and “tomorrow’s burdens." That, however, is not always the case. In most companies, there is so much waste, that short term results can be gained while long term improvements are being seeded. Take for instance a warehouse with poor slotting. A quick re-slot of a few warehouse zones can result in huge productivity improvements and cost reductions. If the re-slot is reported as the result of a lean improvement, it plants seeds of short term and long term wins with leadership.

We often hear the cliché catch phrase: “lean is a journey,” and I’m hesitant to just throw that phrase around without caution, but there is much truth in it. Lean is a relentless hunt for perfection, knowing that perfection will never be found. This relentless hunt or journey will always find opposition. Opposition doesn’t mean lean is the problem or that the opponent is the problem. It just means that there is a problem, and lean provides the mentality and tools to dig deep into the problem so that the problem will be solved."

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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