According to the 2007 State of Lean Survey conducted by the Lean Enterprise Institute, the number one ranked obstacle to implementing lean is middle management resistance to change, jumping up from number three in last years survey.
Last years number one reported obstacle was backsliding which dropped all the way down to sixth place in this year’s survey.
It seems to be an interesting shift in just one year that it appears most respondents now can sustain gains better but must deal with the “concrete heads” of middle management to progress on their lean journey.
As a lean practitioner in the field working closely with several major clients, I have my own opinion on barriers to the lean journey. What about your obstacles to progress on your lean journey? Do you agree with these finding?
This survey was completed by 2,444 managers and executives within the base of LEI’s monthly e-letter subscribers. I wonder what the mix of senior level executives to lower level lean practitioners is within the 2,444 respondents. I see middle management resistance, employee resistance and supervisor resistance all making three of the top four obstacles to lean. Do you find that odd? Notice anyone missing from the list? Make me say, ummmmmmm!
From a senior executive point of view, I would say we could be a great lean company if it wasn’t for all our middle managers, supervisors and employees resisting change. Looks like the bus needs to makes a bus stop to let some (a lot of) people off. To make it more complete, how about adding supplier resistance and unreasonable customer demands to the list?
As a lean thinker, I find this difficult to believe. First, I would ask five whys to get deeper at the root cause of the obstacles to lean. It is not the five-who process to find the root blame. Until we stop trying to pin blame on someone else, we will not make progress on our lean journey. It is better that we should reflect on our own thinking and actions to see what obstacles we create and fix them first.
Despite my issues with the survey findings, LEI does an outstanding job promoting and teaching lean thinking along with helping organization on their lean journey. For more information, visit LEI at http://www.lean.org/.