Anyone who describes the lean journey as a well defined, narrow, straight line path, filled with do’s and don’ts or absolute right’s and wrong’s, ending up with a completely waste free organization has not traveled very far down this road. In my opinion, the lean journey is more like two steps forward and one step back with plenty of winding curves, wrong turns, pot holes and other road hazards to make life interesting.
How many companies, including Toyota, can honestly say that their lean journey is smooth sailing and trouble free?
The lean journey is difficult, messy, and even uncertain at times. That is why we do not see many organizations as examples of long term lean success. Some just give up or rationalize that we are lean enough. Can anyone really be lean enough? For others, the risk in trying something new is just too high of a price so the status quo wins out as the safe bet. For many, there is simply no interest in the lean journey.
I must admit, part of the allure of the lean journey for me is the challenge. It’s not about the challenge to master the lean tools. It’s not even about the challenge to eliminate waste. For me, the challenge is helping create a learning culture that drives continuous improvement forever, even as we go two steps forward and one step back.