Pyramid Inspire our Lean Transformations

By Jon Miller Updated on May 15th, 2017

It’s not every day that the commute to the shop floor takes you past one of these.

What the ancients knew in building pyramids, we can learn from and be inspired by them when undergoing lean transformations and when making major changes to how we live and how we do business.

1. Start with a firm foundation. Regardless of the debate and speculation about by whom or how the pyramids were built, there is little doubt that they started with the foundation and worked their way to the apex, not the other way around. And yet many organizations struggle or fail at lean by working on the capstone first.

2. Keep the structure simple. You don’t see a lot of towers, ramps, minarets or adornments to the pyramid. It is a simple pyramid shape. Yet the pyramids stand strong and impressive for millennia.

3. Build it block by block. Every piece has to be moved in place painstakingly and properly. This is no less true in a lean transformation than in building the pyramids. There are no shortcuts, only better ways to do the basics.

4. Think long-term. The pyramids were built as houses of eternity for the pharoahs. Any ambitious undertaking should be done in consideration their long-term impact, if not of eternity.

5. Build out of respect for people. The people who built the pyramids obviously commanded tremendous power and resources. They were able to organize the efforts of man thousands of people to build these structures. We can speculate about how much of the motivation of the pharoahs was due to their giant egos, their religious beliefs centering on the importance of human life even after death, and how much of it was to keep he population fed and busy with a massive public works project. In any case they succeeded in building these amazing structures. If we aspire to achieve comparable things with the help of those around us, we need leaders who inspire us and who show the type of respect for people to provide adequately for the workforce. and make us feel like we are part of building something great.

  1. Rob

    November 14, 2008 - 4:08 am

    I often see the pyramid model being used in a three-tiered documentation system in quality management systems. Tier one includes the quality manual, tier two includes quality procedures and tier three includes all work instructions and quality records. You’re correct in saying that the critical aspect is the foundation. Get that wrong and the whole structure is unsound!

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