Five Mindsets Holding You Back from Your Lean Transformation

Being honored to work with many companies across many industries over the years, I’ve heard every one of them say “I can’t believe we didn’t do this years ago!” after they start their Lean transformation.  What keeps them from getting started sooner?  Here are five mindsets that I know held them back.


1.  We’re unique, Lean doesn’t apply to us.

When I hear this, I often ask- do you bring in material or information?  Do you transform those inputs and deliver a product or service back to a customer?  Isn’t that what most companies do?

Do you have waste within your processes that generate friction between you and your customers?  Doesn’t it make sense to eliminate that waste and make your organization more efficient so it is more competitive?  That is what Lean is about.  Identifying and eliminating waste.

2.  We’re not Toyota

Guess what no one is.  Chances are you don’t have a sixty-year history of using employee engagement to eliminate waste within the organization.  Trying to mimic Toyota would not be the way to go.

Every organization has its own culture and its own ability to absorb change. You need coaches that can guide you in developing your own customized Lean transformation that will lead to results in a short time.

3.  We’re High Mix/Low Volume.

I’ve heard this because I have done a lot of work in the Aerospace supply chain, medical device and I have worked with many machine shops.  The high-volume, simple products have moved offshore.

As much as I would like to reverse that trend, I don’t think it will change soon.  Most items manufactured in the US are more complicated or too large to bring here from overseas.

What can you do to separate yourself from the competition?  My bet is shorter lead times, increased quality and better on-time delivery will help separate your organization from the competition.

4.  We don’t have time or management support.

Hopefully, we all realize that a successful Lean transformation won’t occur unless there is leadership support.  Think about the time spent on firefighting?  What if you could eliminate the firefighting, provide visual information so leaders would know instantly how the organization is performing?

What if most of the employee issues disappeared because they were more engaged?

A huge part of Lean is about becoming more visual, sharing information and being more transparent.  This increases employee engagement.  Would your leaders have time to support a business transformation in that scenario?

5.  We can’t afford to hire outside coaches.

American Lean’s True North is to work with 1000 American companies a year, help them increase their Global competitiveness through culture change and the adoption of Lean principles.  Most of our work is done with middle-market companies and we understand the importance of having a bottom and top-line ROI.

In my book the Lean Game Plan, I use an actual Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) that I led as an example.  That single RIE returned at least 10:1 on the coaching fees.  If you need heart surgery, you will not figure it out yourself by searching on the internet.  You will hire the most experienced, skilled doctor there is.  Shouldn’t you do the same thing for your business?

You can listen to the podcast at the American Lean Weekday podcast episode four.

You can listen to the episode on YouTube here!

As always, it is an honor to serve you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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