Eliminating the Six Criticisms of Lean

No Lean 1

Ever since the beginning of progressive management, starting with Scientific Management in the late 1800s and all the way to Lean management today, workers have had the same six criticisms. Progressive management is bad because it will:

  • De-humanize me
  • Speed me up and burn me out
  • De-skill me
  • Take away my knowledge
  • Take away my creativity
  • Cost me my job

Workers are right to fear progressive management, because, more likely than not, their leaders do not understand it at all and because they ignore the “Respect for People” principle. Most leaders think progressive management is a more effective way to cut costs and lay people off. The purpose of progressive (Lean) management is the exact opposite: to grown and improve, and to do so in ways that do not cause harm to the people in the organization or to any of its stakeholders (suppliers, customers, investors, and communities). Lean, and the pursuit of flow, must do no harm. If it does, then that is Fake Lean.

Nobody wants to be the loser. So don’t make people, especially employees, the loser. Simply put, it ceases to be Lean management the moment it is used for bad. If leaders make employees the loser, then efforts to create a high-performing organization will obviously fail. That should be easy to understand.

So, what should managers do to eliminate the six criticisms of Lean management in an organization?

There is no one method for doing so. Leaders have to do many things, beginning with having a correct understanding of the purpose and intent of Lean management and recognize they have a poor understanding of “Respect for People.” Then, they must themselves participate in improvement activities – especially kaizen – both to learn Lean management and understand its interconnections, nuances, and details, and to consistently demonstrate to employees that Lean will not cause them harm. Employees want to see evidence of the application of Lean principles and practices by their leaders, and tangible, non-zero-sum (win-win), outcomes that prove Lean is beneficial to them and to other stakeholders.


Any employee who has experienced REAL Lean, knows that it:

  • Humanizes the workplace and improve cooperation, communication, and enthusiasm for work
  • Focuses and energizes me
  • Adds skills to my repertoire 
  • Increases my knowledge
  • Increases my creativity
  • Makes my job more valuable and secure

If these are not the outcomes, they you’re not doing Lean management. And you’re causing harm to people. That is not in your job description. So why do you do it?

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