By Ron Pereira Published on April 28th, 2009

“Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimal means.”
– Dr. Koichi Kawana

If I was only able to use one word to describe what lean and authentic continuous improvement meant to me I’d choose, without hesitation, simplicity.

You see I feel like most of us, myself included, complicate things far more than they need to be.

For example:

  • We use sophisticated software to run our companies when a trip to Staples may be all that is required.
  • We produce 48 variants of our product when our customers only care about 3 of them.
  • We buy million dollar machines  to increase capacity when all that’s actually needed is set-up reduction on the existing assets we already own.

What do you think?  Do you agree with me?  If not, what single word would you use to describe lean and authentic continuous improvement?

  1. Richard

    April 28, 2009 - 11:06 pm

    I read this quote once: “I am not interested in simplicity on this side of complexity. I am only interested in simplicity on the other side of complexity.” I think this is the essence of “lean” thinking: taking something which has become complex, and making it simple once again. People who “simplify” processes without first understanding the intricacies and complexities contained within them, will always make things worse. It is an art and science to learn how to ask the right questions to get back to simplicity after being in complexity for some time.

  2. T.J.

    April 29, 2009 - 8:14 pm

    Great post. My one word = thinking.

  3. Sheila Barton

    April 30, 2009 - 8:29 am

    If I had to choose one word I’d probably go for respect-for-people-while-attacking-waste. OK, I know I may be breaking the rules of the game.

  4. Blake Merrell

    April 30, 2009 - 10:26 am

    I agree! Lean to me means CUTTING THE FAT! simplify the process, Do all that is possible to FOCUS on what is MOST important! If i could use one other word to describe lean, Foucs might be one I would choose.

    I read something a few years ago by H David Burton that I really liked, pertaining to focus.

    “One of the defining differences between the good and the great is what sports psychologists call “focus.” Competitors who have the ability to set aside the unimportant and be completely attentive to that which is critical are able to improve their performance. Focus is a critical success factor.”

    “I overheard a conversation between golfing great Arnold Palmer and a young caddie he was using for the first time. The young caddie, while handing Mr. Palmer his club, told him the distance to the flag was 165 yards, there was an unseen stream on the left, and a long and treacherous rough on the right. In a very kind but firm way, Mr. Palmer reminded the young man that the only information he required was the distance to the hole. He further suggested he didn’t want to lose focus by worrying about what was on the right or left.”

  5. Observer

    April 30, 2009 - 10:33 pm

    I think getting maximum effect with minimum means is productivity. Not simplicity. Simplicity means every one can understand, or the process steps are very few and easily implemented / used by every one.

    Complexity is not to be blamed and abhored. Often the complex stuff requiring experts and much one time effort makes our life easy. Computers. Internet etc are complex systems. Integrated chips are complex. Semiconductor technology is complex. But we use the computer and internet to create a blog or communicate with different individuals we may never meet and share our thoughts every day.

    I wonder how a trip to staples avoids complex software.

    I think generalization is fine. But every thing need not be generalized.

  6. Jeff Hajek

    May 1, 2009 - 12:41 am

    My one word is ‘optimism.’ Lean focuses on faith. You just have to believe that there is always a better way to do things, even if you don’t know it yet.

  7. Anonymous

    May 1, 2009 - 7:00 am

    Paradox or nonintuitive

  8. Mindo

    May 1, 2009 - 12:09 pm


  9. pranay mittal

    August 25, 2011 - 9:04 am

    I partially agree with you. I would say we have to act complicated to make things simple for us.

    If I have to coin a single word to describe lean and authentic continuous improvement, then the first thing which comes to my mind is FOCUS.

  10. Arvind

    August 25, 2011 - 10:10 am

    Simplicity !! I agree !!

  11. nirmalraj

    September 4, 2011 - 8:24 am

    I’d say that my SMARTWORK is my one word

  12. Pulkit

    September 5, 2011 - 7:21 am

    I would stick to simplicity, but i would also suggest one more word ie “Perceptive”.

  13. Rohit Verma

    September 12, 2011 - 1:10 am

    depends on thinking,perception…how you grow with your knwoledge

  14. Anonymous

    September 16, 2011 - 7:25 am


  15. gaurav

    May 2, 2012 - 1:20 am

    totally Agree!!

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