Regrettably,  Lean Implementation is not a cut and paste operation. The entire purpose of Lean Manufacturing is nothing more that creating a common focal point (The 7 Wastes) and providing navigation tools to control team focus. Simple as that. Where things get really rocky is history and performance. You bet, there are plenty of success stories out there regarding the merits of Lean. Unfortunately, it is not a cut and past solution. 

A great example is the Gemba walk. The purpose of the Gemba walk to to get the meetings out of the office and on the the floor where the money is made. Without a doubt, this is one of the most effective team concepts out there and results can materialize very quickly by coercing the team to see issues first hand. However, implementing this process as a phased approach can be disastrous!

In order for any Lean implementation to be effective the culture has to change. The first of those changes has to start with trust and then delivery. The fact is, Lean will require a cultural shift from reactive to proactive and more importantly – a broader change in “what is perceived” to be value added. 

Asking a leader to start trending data manually on a Gemba board will almost always be viewed as “more work”. Great leaders ensure that the wins (positive graphical improvement trends) are 1) celebrated 2) have performance reviewed linked and 3) ensure accountability. 

Only then will the tool become a “benefit” instead of a night more. Remember, there is no point in implementing anything Lean if the culture is not set up to accept it. 

Lean implementation requires a strategy. 


While you may be the smarted Lean person in the company, you will fail if the rest of the team is not conceptually aligned. Long before implementation – require common reading, take the time to give presentations, and mentor your team on core concepts. 

Go in easy – start with teaching them to see the Seven Wastes. 

Revise Accountability

Tie lean objectives and training objectives to performance reviews. Great leaders are constantly learning. Asking your team to read a lean book once a quarter and quizzing them on the concept is completely acceptable. Then start using a Hoshin diagram to build their accountability. 


Push it down then support bottom up

Remember, as leaders, the objective is to teach a “new” language. At the end of the day – everyone in the building should speak Lean. Encourage teams to utilize standard Lean formats to present to Sr. Leaders from the bottom up.