Are You Ready For Lean?

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 13th, 2011

Are you ready for lean?I just skimmed through a short white paper that attempted to provide a checklist to help an organization decide if they were ready for lean.

It was written by a person who works for a “human capital management solutions” company. Yeah, you can probably guess where I’m headed.

Rather than tell this person what I really think about the fancy technology they are pedaling… which wouldn’t be practicing respect for the individual… I’ll instead offer my own checklist to help people decide if they are ready for lean. Ready? Here goes.

1. Are you ready to admit you are sick?

First off, chances are, if you are operating as a traditional mass producer you probably have inventory piled up everywhere. You probably live by your forecasts, which are never right. And you probably spend most of your time in meetings talking about how you are going to make things better. Problem is you are always in meetings talking instead on the shop floor making things better. In short… you are sick and you must admit it.

2. Are you ready for some pain?

Getting lean isn’t easy. Once you begin to bleed down all that inventory inefficiencies you never dreamed existed will begin to appear.

Further, if you get to the point to where you are implementing one piece flow… oh dear me… get ready. You are in for real pain my friends. You see, the minute an operator pulls the andon and the whole line stops… yeah, that’s when the real fun begins. Oh, and this is also precisely when deeply seated and real improvements begin to happen.

3. Do you hate the status quo?

Finally, before you decide to go down the lean (or six sigma) journey you must develop a deeply rooted hatred for the status quo.

You should get sick to your stomach when you watch Cindy take those 12 extra steps each time she assembles that part. Why can’t we reduce it to 8 steps?

You should despise the fact your lead time is 12 weeks while your chief competitor offers their solution in 10 weeks. In summary, you should hate the way things operate today.

So that’s my list. What would you add or subtract from it?

  1. Timothy Simmons

    September 8, 2008 - 10:08 pm

    Oh man Ron, I know the exact article you are referring to! I like your list much better especially the ‘admit you’re sick’ point. My company is doing very well financially but we are far from perfect operationally. Unfortunately since we are doing well financially no one wants to admit we can, and need to, improve. We may not be sick, but we could easily come down with the flu if the market turns.

  2. Marty Y.

    September 9, 2008 - 6:32 am

    I read somewhere that the two best questions to determine if a company was ready for change are:

    1. Do you trust that management is doing things in your best interest?
    2. Do you feel that management takes your opinions into account?

    I realize there is the chicken and the egg thing here, but if there isn’t a certain amount of trust between employees and management, you will fail.

  3. Deb B

    September 9, 2008 - 3:47 pm

    Great comments and totally agree that positive leadership is at the centre of this. The other question is … do you have the style of culture that says it is OK to make mistakes along the way … that is supportive of trying new things with or without success … that encourages small steps and shaky big ones … without that, you’ll be disheartening those early adopters and tripping over right from the start.

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