Guidelines for Fast Lean Transformation | M. Zinser & D. Ryeson | HBR Blog

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One of the most common mistakes that companies make when embarking on a lean program is trying to do too much at once. These “boil-the-ocean” initiatives are long, costly and often end up stalling under the weight of their own…


Michel Baudin‘s insight:

Scoop It just brough my attention to this 2 1/2-year old article by BCG consultants Michael Zinser and David Ryeson. Their key point is that a successful Lean implementation must start with a small number of well-chosen, pilot projects, and I agree.

I do, however, part company with them on two other issues. First, they only speak the language of money, relentlessly bringing up costs, savings,  payoffs, metrics and incentives. I understand that this language is familiar and attractive to top management.

The article only cites examples of improvements that have a direct economic impact, but there are many aspects of Lean for which the relationship is indirect. Scoring a goal in tonight’s game has a direct impact on performance; building a championship team doesn’t.

Which brings me to my second disagreement with the authors:  there is no consideration in their article of the need to develop the organization’s technical and managerial skills. They are just assumed to be there.

Lean is about developing a team that is able to compete at the highest level in your industry. If you already have such a team, you are probably not looking to implement Lean. If you don’t have it, you can’t start projects as if you did. Instead, you have to focus on projects that your team can do today and that will start it on its way. The biggest payoff and the practically possible do not always match.

This perspective is missing in their guidelines.

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One comment on “Guidelines for Fast Lean Transformation | M. Zinser & D. Ryeson | HBR Blog

  1. Yes, Cost reductions at the top of the list is another of the reasons that Lean and Continuous improvement efforts fail. But the root cause of this, in my humble opinion, is that Senior Executives still have not made a real effort to learn what Lean/TPS is all about. There are a lot of words that describe what Lean is but they only hear “Cost Reduction” and think cool, tell me when you have some of that and I will tell the board we have reduced some costs. Or “how many people have we taken out?”. Now some groups use this logic to show the C-suit that there is more to Lean than cutting heads, but that often back fires and they too get the axe!

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