The Lean Plateau

According to this article on the Supply Chain Brain forum, which details survey results provided by Capgemini Consulting, "dissatisfaction with lean initiatives is highest one to two years after initial launch." As expected, the initial enthusiasm resulting from practical process improvements of first-time kaizen events and the application of Lean tools soon gives way to stagnation or backsliding because "long-term behavioral changes have not yet become embedded in the organization." In other words, if an organization's culture is not altered or transformed, the Lean initiative will eventually hit a sluggish plateau.

The article contends that the absence of four correctly functioning key factors -- Leadership, Recognition, Strategic Alignment, and Performance Management -- often lead to an initiative's inability to sustain. I have always maintained that there is that crucial disconnect between the application of Lean tools and and true behavioral change when participants are just "applying" but not "understanding." In your experiences, what causes Lean initiatives to stall? Can participants who expressed enthusiasm and optimism for the Lean initiative when it commenced, but are now disheartened at two-year mark, be reinvigorated?


Mark Stover said...

In my experience, the number one reason why initiatives like lean fail or stall out is lack of management commitment. Bill Waddell of the Evolving Excellence blog put it very well in a headline to one of his postings earlier this summer: Management Trumps Culture Everytime. And when you think about it, that is obvious. For what else is culture but a manifestation of how management chooses to set the tone. It is not enough for management and ownership to simply support the idea of lean. They have to change their own ways of thinking and behaving. It's the behaving part that is hardest because behavior is rooted in deeply held values and beliefs. Not many successful entrepreneurs or corporate executives are going to change their deeply held values or beliefs without a monumnetal event. For the leaders at Toyota in the early 1950's it was the shame they felt for having to layoff so many workers after the strike and the near bankruptcy.

Dean Bliss said...

As IHI says, you have to have the will. As the late George Carlin once said, "You gotta wanna (want to)". If you don't want to, you won't - even if it's the best idea in the world. IMHO, the tools are 20%, the leadership/culture/will is 80%. If we don't build the will, the results will be "won't".