Here are 4.5 Signs that Your Lean May be L.A.M.E.

Mark Graban at the Lean Blog coined L.A.M.E. as “Lean As Misguidedly Executed” and Kevin Meyer at the Evolving Excellence blog builds on this idea in pointing out how Lean is often added on in press releases, though it may be out of context.
Here are 4.5 signs that your Lean effort may be L.A.M.E.:
1. Assuming that your employees know why you are going Lean. The first assumption people will make is that Lean means Less Employees Are Needed. There are simply too many L.A.M.E. cases where this is true. No matter how many times you explain the big picture, customer-focused, long-term thinking reason for going Lean, people will tune back into radio station WIFM – What’s In it for Me? So keep communicating the reason Lean is essential until they understand and believe it.
2. Setting an “adequate” level of Lean education for your people. Whether it be a number of hours, certification through attending a number of seminars or courses, reading books or being on a number of kaizen events, as soon as you set the “enough” level of Lean education and ask them to get back to work, you have a misguided Lean execution. Toyota says “monozukuri wa hitozukuri” or “making things is making people”. Real Lean is the Thinking People System, and this requires a long-term commitment to superior manufacturing (or service) through people development.

3. Not telling your customers about your Lean efforts.
There are so many good reasons for telling your customers early and often about your Lean efforts, that this will have to be a separate blog entry (WIP creation in action!).
4. Not marketing Lean to your own organization. Resistance to change is everywhere. There are so many reasons in people’s minds NOT to implement Lean right now, or not in this area or not for this product. There are so many other things demanding attention. The benefits, challenges, countermeasures to challenges to Lean as well as the need for constant change and learning should be to be marketed and promoted until it becomes part of the air you breathe and the language you speak.
4.5. Having a completion date on your Lean implementation plan. This receives only half marks for being L.A.M.E. because of partial credit for having an actual implementation plan in place. But once you truly understand Lean, you’ll want to put a zero after whatever number you have as the completion date, or scratch the number off all together.


  1. robert thompson

    March 22, 2007 - 11:32 pm

    I think the L.A.M.E. term sums up a lot of so-called Lean efforts.
    “Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.” Sound familiar?
    I think the following quotes from here: provide a reasonable summary:
    “Instead of embracing TPS as an overarching philosophy, they (most companies) have used it piecemeal as a toolbox.”
    “While Toyota carefully describes its fabled system as an operating philosophy for guiding the management of an entire enterprise, would-be followers typically think of TPS as a departmental solution that affects only the plant floor, suggests Stanford University professor Jim Matheson.”

  2. Michael Schaffner

    March 24, 2007 - 9:15 am

    Excellent post. As you imply the problem isn’t with the concept of Lean but rather with the implementation.
    Interestingly enough if you substitute the name for any other project or initiative in your 4.5 points they are still valid. What you have described are key implementation issues for any worthwhile endeavor.