Why Does Lean Management fail?

Lorenzo Del Marmol

February 11, 2017

Why Does Lean Management fail?

Lean Management, from the word “lean” which means something without fat, light and well-balanced, is a philosophy that was initially developed by Toyota for its manufacturing systems. It refers to a complex and sophisticated set of rules, tools and principles designed to pursue performance in productivity, quality, delays and waste through continuous improvement processes and elimination of non-value added tasks, creating in this way maximum value for the customer.
The goal is to provide the customer with a defect free product or service when it is needed and in the quantity/quality that is needed.

In order to achieve these objectives, different techniques have been developed, with keywords such as rationalisation, standardisation or resources optimization. In this context, resources refer to financial, material but also human resources. The last one is unfortunately often neglected when organisations decide to engage in the Lean method because they focus too much on figures and profits.

However, accuracy of the processes and established rules only won’t be enough to ensure the optimal functioning of your organisation. One should not forget that, among the 14 principles of The Toyota Way, principle 13 says: “Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly”. Principle 14 teaches the following: “Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.”

One should keep a constant eye on two insights in order to avoid failing

First, successful Lean Management requires not only quantitative KPI (Key Performance Indicators) and measurements, such as waste reduction or rationalisation, but also qualitative data. Parameters such as motivation of the collaborators, wellness at work or willingness to take initiatives also are essential.

Second, for a successful Lean management, it is necessary that every level of the hierarchy, not only the top management, be aware of the vision, the strategy, the need and the methodology to change and to learn lean principles. All levels inside the organisation have to be willing to collaborate, learn, implement and change. That’s why Lean Management also requires consensus and mindset change, without what a long-term transformation won’t be possible. One could even say that Lean represents a cultural revolution in the sense that it challenges the traditional hierarchies by pursuing transformation from the field, at a bottom-up level and not the opposite. If these factors are not taken into account, your Lean Management will fail.

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