The Fine Print About Lean Transformations

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Whenever you’re ready to make a deal it’s a good habit not only to read the fine print but to read only the fine print. The small print often says exactly the opposite of what the larger print. The pill may promise in large print to cure all, but the fine print suggests it may kill you. The larger print may say “you are already approved” while the fine print says “subject to approval.” Large print says “free of charge” while the fine print says “charges may apply”. The bigger the print the less it matters. Many great offers promoted in large print apply only when exacting conditions are true. The same can be said for lean transformations. The big, bright, colorful promises are the ones we are attracted towards like moths to the flame, but you-know-who is in the details.
While I am always grateful to meet enthusiastic senior leaders who exhort their people to cut through the bureaucracy, go out and make improvements, take photos of before and after and “Don’t send me any reports, I won’t read them,” there is a fine line between this and refusing to read the fine print of what makes a culture change lasting. Photos can capture the big print but finding the fine print takes the critical, and sometimes even skeptical eye for detail, followed by boring and difficult meetings to unwind these details. Change management and preparatory activities during a lean transformation exist not for their own sake, but because they prevent failures later. Everyone wants results fast, but just like credit card spending demands that you repay the bank, fast track lean implementations require that the Bank of Preparation be paid back sooner or later. The words of a few leaders I’ve met recently echo in my head and worry me. So far they’ve been lucky with the fine print they’ve ignored and my advice is falling on deaf ears.

So here again is my offer:

Lean Brings You Fast Results! Recognition, Pride and Prosperity Can All Be Yours with Lean! Try Lean Management Today!
May require significant changes to leadership behavior. May require dismantling existing reporting structures, organizational boundaries or performance measurement schemes. Positive results due to employee empowerment may be accompanied sense of grief due to perceived loss of power, position or authority. May cause adverse interactions with existing accounting systems, ERP systems and vendor management systems. Results may be delayed due to resistance from key stakeholders. Side effects may not be reversible even if lean management is abandoned. Seeing bottom line results may depend on business growth or restructuring. Actual results may vary. Sustaining of results may require constant effort. Not applicable in industries and processes where waste does not exist. One per customer. Some restrictions apply. Offer void where prohibited by law.

But seriously, if you’re in the market for a great sustainable lean transformation vehicle, slightly used but well-maintained and with a fully tested and traversed road map, do give us a call.

6 Comments

  1. Roy Waterhouse

    May 28, 2010 - 3:25 am

    I like your small print. Our lean journey is almost two years old and we are still in our infancy. It has been painful and difficult but the results are beginning to show.

  2. Brian Buck

    May 28, 2010 - 8:12 am

    Your post is both funny and thought provoking. A great read for my Friday morning.

  3. Erik

    May 28, 2010 - 11:54 am

    Very funny for the reason that most things are truly funny…because it’s based on truths we all live with but don’t always admit. Just like Dilbert. Great post Jon!

  4. John Santomer

    May 28, 2010 - 10:55 pm

    Dear Jon, You don’t know how mucg I’m tempted to dial your number!For the longest time I’ve been with our company; and for the nth time lean has been tried tobe fully implemented, all I say is – we’ve seriously tackled all that has been stated in the fine print! Some we’ve hurdled and some we’ve delved for the longest ‘exhausting mile’. I can’t help but burst into laughter upon reading where the ‘offer is void’ though…And yes, everything in the fine print stayed in the path of truth. ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ – Edmund Burke

  5. Owen Berkeley-Hill

    May 29, 2010 - 3:30 am

    SUPERB! (In 90 Point)
    No small print.

  6. Joseph

    June 2, 2010 - 2:06 pm

    Jon.
    Another great post. I see the theme written by management who in large print say that they want a consultant to deliver a LEAN plant when in small print what they want is a consultant to do their job for them and deliver a receptive work force. Thus making their lives easier. The actual LEAN improvements are a side issue. It is all a cunning stunt.
    Management should do their job and deliver the changes that are required to the TOTAL work force & the consultant should deliver the technical experties of the LEAN SYSTEMS. I read the frustrations of many Consultants that meet resistance trying to change years of poor management work force relations. If the change happens then the manager takes the accolade if it fails he blames the consultant. In BIG letters he says he will support the launch in small letters he turns up at the very end. He says all the good stuff like “work smarter not harder” but what he means is “work smarter & harder & dont answer back”.
    I see too many good people writing about the difficulty they have changing people when their experties is in systems.
    It showes as you say above when taking on a consultancy dont just read the LARGE Print “£££££..” read the small print. How many hoops you will have to jump through. Changing SYSTEMS is easy. Changing POEPLE is very, very hard. That is why the Manager wants a fall guy to do it for HIM.
    Make sure that you are not holding the parcel when the music stops.
    No man is an island unless his name is “Madagascar”.