Lean 2.0: MAKING IT YOUR IDENTITY – part 2

Part I highlighted how the Lean we grew up with did not address change at the correct logical level – that it was being dispensed at the behavioral and skill level. Lean is really an identity and a set of beliefs, which are the higher logical levels that regulate our behaviors and skills. That is, what we believe and the identity we have matters more in this case, because those are what influence the behaviors and skills we develop. And if we’re going to emulate what Toyota figured out way back when, then we have to look at what Toyota’s identity is, and what they believe.

Which we can gain some insight into from through these quotes: 

“Before cars, make people.”
“People don’t come to Toyota to work. They come here to think.” 

Contrast that to the quotes all of us have heard coming from command & control organizations:

“Just do your job and leave the thinking to me.”
“I don’t pay you to think, I pay you to do.”
“Leave your brain at the door.”

Ask yourself, what kind of an organization would make each of these statements? What identity does the organization have to have, in order to say this to their employees? What beliefs would managers have to have in order for them to stay congruent with this identity?

Once you get past that, then the real question is, how do I get this Lean identity and the accompanying beliefs into place? And this is where Lean 2.0 comes in.

Obviously any identity shift has to start at the very top. That means the Board/C-Suite/executive team have to make this identity shift if you’re ever going to get an implementation to stick. This can take a while but it doesn’t have to. Complete shifts have been made in less than a day, so throw out the limited belief that “it takes a long time to change.” Not the case, and as it relates to Lean specifically, once the leaders make this identity shift, you are 50% of the way home.

You’ve heard people say, our Lean efforts are failing because I can’t get top management buy-in? Well, imagine how much easier it will be when they not only buy in, but lead the charge.

Just because the leadership team has made the mental shift, doesn’t mean they can’t still mess things up. There’s lots of work to be done, but it coincides with the existing work, so it’s not too hard. It is much easier to implement Lean well, if you do the right things, and in this case, the right thing is to have the top leaders drive the implementation.

Not only do you want to have the top leaders driving the implementation, you have to make the managers do all the work, rather than doing it for them. If you are the one who is actively getting involved in the actual execution and roll-out of the Lean tools, you are handicapping the company and not allowing them to learn what they need to learn. Your goal here is to get everyone to think on their own, and while this approach is time consuming and requires patience, it’s the only way. Taiichi Ohno put it this way:

“You are simply acting like a mom for your workers. That’s the main reason why they take a long time to grow.”

Lean 2.0 also includes an easy way to get immediate buy-in from the top. By picking a single problem to pursue, one that the leadership team is actively interested in solving, you automatically put the focus on where it belongs – their problem. Now let the executive management team install the visual system they will use to solve all of their problems, and you have taken that single small human step that amounts to the proverbial giant step for . . . in this case, the company.

Now plop the problem up on the  board, and dissect it into smaller steps. You’ll recognize this as policy deployment, but again, no need to even call it that. We’re not here to describe it, we’re here to do it. Just do it. White board, sticky notes, and the info. Have them do all the work, not you.

Finish the board, and walk them down to their direct reports to get the exact same thing done, using the broken down, smaller steps. Drive this all the way to the team boards. They have begun their Lean thinking journey.

The beauty of this method is you don’t even have to use the word Lean one single time. It’s become so nebulous and fraught with incorrect definitions that even top professionals have begun advocating OpEx because they themselves mistakenly think Lean is about efficiency. So just avoid it altogether if you want. You don’t need it. It served its purpose – to identify this new management technology that is being used to kick competitor’s butts, but now it’s no longer needed, thank you very much. So just avoid it. Call it workplace-led management or world class management if you must.

Instead, discuss the issue you’ve picked. Drive that home hard. We wanna solve this right? And we haven’t been able to solve it for a while, yes? So here’s what we’re going to do. Now be the coach who installs Lean thinking into everyone around you . . . by being Lean. Don’t give the answers – always prompt them to think for themselves with questions – and challenge them constantly.

Add in the problem solving infrastructure throughout the company to allow the Lean thinking to accelerate, and you’ll get the leaders driving Lean thinking directly into the heart of the business, without much resistance.

That’s an overview of Lean 2.0 and of course there’s much more. But this is enough to highlight that it’s a completely different approach from the old school, tool-based Lean implementations we’ve grown up with. You don’t have to rely on “happy accidents” anymore – especially when what your internal/external client is buying from you is certainty and confidence.

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7 years ago

Jim, You have a very interesting view regarding lean implantation. In my experience, many executives at the top do not have an understanding of where the business is going and how each department impacts the overall business goal. Each department is separated by individual P&L and because of their mindset, a lot of the lean, CI, Kaizen leaders report under operations (Director, VP, SVP, etc). Each section of the business has their own priorities and goals that are not necessarily linked to the overall business value. There are huge disconnects within the links which cause lean leaders to focus on… Read more »

philip Edwards
philip Edwards
7 years ago

I would like information about the courses you run.

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