The Seven Laws of Lean Disillusionment

I have spoken to many people in recent years who have become disillusioned with Lean management in one way or another. In most cases, disillusionment does not lead to a complete abandonment of Lean thinking and practice. Rather, it greatly suppresses enthusiasm and limits the scope of practice to what is easiest to do – frequently by one’s self and no longer as part of a team. Disillusionment greatly diminishes the spirit for Lean and challenge of improvement. Most people experience this more than one time in their career.  

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Reflecting on those conversations, there were several recurring themes that framed people’s disillusionment. I have summarized them into the “The Seven Laws of Lean Disillusionment.”

I inform the disillusioned that I face the same challenges in my job as anyone else does in their job. I’ve experienced only one boss in 30 years that was an enthusiastic supporter of TPS and Lean. Every other boss of mine – close to 20 of them – could care less about Lean. So, I know what other people have to contend with in their workplace.

But, just because there is no support is not a good enough reason for the disillusioned to diminish their Lean thinking and practice. I offer the disillusioned this advice:

That is what I do. Maybe it will work for you too.

In the absence of luck, progress is always much more difficult than we image it to be. However, one’s struggles should stimulate human creativity and ingenuity, so that progress can be made despite any obstacle. Lean management cannot advance without people’s personal commitment. If personal commitment wanes on a large scale, then Lean will also wane, and the investments in effort, time, and money made by so many people over three decades to make the world a better place will be diminished.

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