Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2011: How to implement Lean Thinking in a Business

Tracey Richardson’s How to implement “Lean Thinking” in a Business is  my third and final blog review for the John Hunter’s Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog Carnival.   Tracey is a trainer, consultant and principal of Teaching Lean Inc. She has 22 years of Lean experience and worked at Toyota Motor Manufacturing KY as a team member, team leader and group leader in the Plastics Department from 1988-1998. She has over 460 hours training in Toyota Methodologies and Philosophy and currently is a trainer for Toyota, their affiliates in North America, and other companies upon request. Tracey experience in Toyota methodologies including: Lean Problem Solving, Quality Circles, Lean Manufacturing tools, Standardized Work, Job Instruction Training, Toyota Production System, Toyota Way Values, Culture Development, Visualization (Workplace Management Systems), Continuous Improvement (Kaizen), Meeting Facilitation/Teamwork, and Manufacturing Simulations.

Tracey also was the 2010 recipient of the Business901 Podcast of the Year! The podcast discussed A3 problem Solving.

Tracey likes to discuss the culture before jumping into problem solving but she takes a look at culture from a different perspective than others. It just about comes across as an attitude (in a very polite way) and there is type of swagger about the whole thing. Why not? When you become #1 in the world such as Toyota did and you are #1 methodology in the world which Lean probably is, why not have that swagger to your discussion? It is not pompous, it is an attitude that what you are doing works! She doesn’t write enough in my opinion because of her commitments as a trainer but her blog is one you should follow, you do not want to miss a word she says. You can also find her answering questions on the Lean Enterprise’s A3 Dojo Website.

What does the word “Lean” mean to you or your Company?

As I travel around the U.S. working with various companies that make a variety of different products, I realize a common denominator throughout them. How do they define the word “lean”, as well as the word “culture”? What I have realized is very interesting!

When I first started consulting I felt it was all about the “tools”, and that’s what companies seem to want, so of course, that’s what they got. As I have matured as an instructor/consultant I, like many, I have led and learned at the same time. In my experience at Toyota, especially back when we were led by the Japanese and their questioning approach; we all as new leaders were being led but at the same time leading others, so it was bringing about the “respect for people” and developing the workforce as a team. I can’t ever recall in my time at Toyota (Toyota Motor Manufacturing KY – TMMK 1988-1998), that we ever labeled what we were doing in a specific word like “Lean”, nor did we really think about our daily actions as a “culture”. It was just in the atmosphere. It wasn’t until I left Toyota to teach others, that those words started to surface. Somehow we felt the need to give it a name, and as I’ve experience the last 13 years as a consultant, I feel that can have somewhat of a hindering effect…..

Pathway to creating a “Lean Culture”

As I travel around to various clients they are always asking me, “How do you implement or create a culture like Toyota has”? I tell them that’s a very loaded question :). There are so many aspects of creating that culture it’s hard to give a short answer or even “wave a magic wand” to say… “Here is what you should do!!”. I wish I was that good . How I see it, you really need to differentiate the People side of Lean versus the Tool side. The People side will always be the most difficult aspect of the discipline needed to create this thing called Culture. The tools are just what they are, mostly countermeasures to change some discrepancy in our process. For the tools to be successful, People must understand their involvement or the purpose behind the tools. As I have stated in previous blog posts you must explain from the company perspective the WHAT, HOW and the WHY of any change or expectation within a persons work….

Tracey’s website: and email:

Related Information:
Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2011: Graham Hill at CustomerThink
Blog Carnival Annual Roundup: 2011: The 99 Percent Solution
LabWorks Opens in the Lean Marketing Lab
The importance of PDCA in Marketing