Is Lean for Everyone?

An excerpt from our podcast:

Joe:   Did you get a feeling that maybe Lean is not for everyone? Is there a drawback that you can mention without hurting your book sales, of course; Is there something that says your organization is not for Lean or is Lean for everyone?

Jacob:    That’s interesting. There are definitely some – what’s the word I want – prerequisites for doing Lean. I mean I think the company has to be dedicated to customer value. So for example, I mean we know that there are companies out there who are making an incredible amount of effort to limit competition, right? They buy out their competitors so they can charge whatever they want. Some of these companies, telecoms, maybe banks and stuff, you see the lousy service and you say, they’re able to get away with  that because they don’t have any competition. Companies like that that have that kind of strategy are not going to be very inclined to go on a long-term journey that can improve the value they deliver to customers.

I don’t want to make a morality judgment here, but there are a lot of people that are not going to have an appetite for Lean because it just doesn’t fit their business model. But I think companies if they do really want to deliver values and improve the value they deliver to customers, and they have respect for their customer and respect for their people, I think Lean is a pretty universal way of doing things.

Joe:  I’d still be a successful, great customer experience, great customer value without being a Lean company, right?

Jacob:       Well you know what, this is a quote from Mike Lamach who’s CEO of Ingersoll Rand, and he said, “Lean is not the only way to do this, but it’s the simplest way I know of to do this and that is to create a line of sight to the customer experience and to rally employees around that experience. There may well be other ways to do it, but I think what Mike is saying is Lean is the simplest way to do it.

Joe:   Well, what would make it simple? I mean Lean is still a struggle with anything. To be a successful company is still a struggle. Lean isn’t just caveat. I follow step one, two, three, is it?

Jacob:       It’s not. You’re right. It takes a lot of creativity, and you have to have a group of people that really are committed to it. Another thing I’ll say who Lean is not for is if you want to have an organization where you have superstars and who basically if you believe in an environment where people kind of compete with each other and sort of a survival of the fittest kind of thing, Lean doesn’t work with that at all, right? You won’t be able to do Lean. I don’t know, I mean companies thrive in many different ways. Lean is for a company that really wants to have a long-term commitment to teamwork and that kind of environment.

Related Podcast and Transcription: The Lean CEO

About: Jacob Stoller is an author, speaker, and consultant specializing in communication between experts and outsiders in areas such as Lean management, information technology, accounting, and engineering. His book, The Lean CEO: Leading the Way to World-Class Excellence reveals the true power of Lean through in-depth interviews with CEOs who have gone beyond tool adoption and established Lean as a corporate-wide management system.