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Questions from a Gemba Academy Subscriber

By Steve Kane Updated on August 25th, 2017

When customers start a subscription with Gemba Academy we like to start with discussion about how we can help them meet their Lean goals.

A recent new customer was very well prepared for our conversation and had four prepared questions for me.  It was clear he had been working on the Lean transformation of his organization for a while and had encountered a few challenges.  These challenges seem to be fairly common.  The questions they sparked are asked less frequently than the challenges seem to occur.  I thought I’d share the questions and answers with you.

What Do Senior Executives Need to be Aware of?

Senior executives need to be aware of both the role they play in a Lean organization and what subordinates need from them.  Senior leaders set the direction of the organization and communicate vision–ad nauseam if necessary.  They have to make the organization understand why Lean is important and how changing operational and management practices will help all stakeholders be successful.  It’s also their responsibility to go and see with their own eyes what problems exist, find out how the problems are being handled, and support those who are dealing with them.

How do I Keep People From Treating Lean Like It’s the Flavor of the Month?

The simple answer is less talk and more action.  People will need to see leaders using Lean methods day in and day out before they start to believe it’s really the way things are going to work in the organization.  Persistence, patience, and discipline are important.  People will watch closely.  Leaders will need to be consistent, especially when challenges arise.  Never stop–not even for a day.

Talk is cheap.  Demonstrating the behaviors and performance expected is essential.  When others aren’t meeting Lean expectations, leaders will need to teach, coach, mentor and inspire.  This can never stop.

Lean will eventually become a habitual and be considered normal.

When Do We Need to Call in a Consultant?

Your Gemba Academy subscription includes access to our Lean practitioners.  Call us first.

There might be times along a Lean journey when uncertainty can bring things to a standstill.  That might be a good opportunity to take a step back and reassess the situation.  Reflect on the direction of the organization, the intended future state, the current state, and the Lean principles that will be used to bridge the gap.

Call Gemba Academy to share your situation and get input.  Quite often a brief phone call is all it takes to break down a major problem into smaller ones and regain focus on taking the next step in the journey.  If a consultant truly is needed on-site, we can help with that as well.

How Should I Select Lean Leaders and Champions?

Anyone in a leadership role in a Lean organization is a Lean leader.  All leaders have the responsibility of Leading people in a way that is consistent with the direction of the organization.  This really can’t be negotiable.  Getting leaders on board with Lean is critical to success.

People without leadership responsibility who show a passion for continuous improvement are your champions.  You can’t train people to have passion or enthusiasm.  Nurture and develop those who have it.  Let them share their excitement with others.

Of course, there are many ways to answer these questions and many ways to implement Lean.  I’m certainly open to other points of view.  Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.


  1. manohar

    September 5, 2017 - 5:05 am

    Hi, Thanks for sharing this blog !

    • Steve Kane

      September 5, 2017 - 7:03 am

      Thanks, Manohar!

  2. Alen

    September 12, 2017 - 3:31 pm

    I agree with Manohar, great blog. Thank you for sharing, Steve.

    • Steve Kane

      September 12, 2017 - 3:38 pm

      Thanks very much, Alen!

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