Driving lean across your organization

Mike Wroblewski, Gemba Consulting North America
Tags: lean manufacturing, continuous improvement

One of the more unfortunate expressions, in my opinion, found in the lean community is “driving lean across the organization”. I hear and see this all the time. It can be found in lean books, articles, job postings, job descriptions, reviews, etc. “I want someone who can drive lean across the organization” or “To drive lean across the company, we need ...”

What comes to your mind when you hear the expression “driving lean across the organization”? How would you drive lean across the organization?

Is this what we really need to do to move toward being a lean company? Can we sustain efforts if we drive them? What happens if the driver leaves the company? What about respect for people or engaging the employees?

As a lean leader (both internal and external), I have been asked in the past to “drive” lean across the company. Having someone, especially an outside consultant, tasked with driving lean is not the best way to become lean. Sure, you most certainly will get some fast results, but it will not be sustained and it may cause more damage to the organization than the gains you achieved.

To begin changing our lean culture, instead of using the term “driving”, can we choose better words to reflect a better approach? How about leading the way, guiding, teaching or setting the example?

Now, how would you lead the way? How would you set the example of the lean approach within your organization? Would your course of action be different than if you drive lean?

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently a senior operations consultant for Gemba Consulting North America LLC. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. You can contact Mike by e-mailing MWroblewski@gemba.com.