The Problem with Lean, Is the Problem

Can Lean be used for more than Problem-Solving?

When we think of Lean whether as a toolset or as a culture, our immediate thought is steered towards problem-solving, the Kaizen Spirit. It is truly the definitive aspect of Lean. It is so prevalent that most outsiders to Lean are convinced that Lean is not applicable to innovation or other domains such as complexity and chaos. They believe that is the space for the “Agile” folks. I have had spirited conversations around the subject, and the truth is I am not going to change their mind.

My thinking around practicing Lean:

  • Reflection as a means to step back from the chaos
  • Exploration (Innovation) to deal with dilemmas and complexity
  • Experimentation to solve problems
  • Standards to enable the obvious

If the Lean Product Development people have taught us anything, it is about always looking and measuring on what we have left to learn or explore. If you review Allen Ward’s LAMDA Cycle and John Boyd’s OODA Loop it closely resembles CAP-Do. The four Lean Thinking Cycles enables use across all of the domains. Problem-Solving is just one of them, let’s not limit Lean.

P.S. I do not care what you call it because until you stop calling it Lean or even Agile, and start calling it your own, it has little chance of being successful.

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