For better or worse, organizations that experience performance pain tend to feel the burn most acutely in Operations. Macresco is often brought in to assess the damage and charged with conceiving of the “Lean” remedy executive management (misguidedly) believes will put an end to their troubles. It is at this point where my uphill battle begins. I’m either battling leadership on the purpose and application of Lean or management on the need to launch a CI initiative at all.


And this happens all the time – particularly at organizations that are otherwise performing well, but looking to refine their operation’s efficiency. Just last week I was received about as enthusiastically as one of the Bobs of Office Space fame.


I’m used to it though, as the primary value of Lean has gotten lost in translation – literally. Lean’s sexy cost cutting benefits often enjoy headlines while its other more valuable and enduring advantages fade into the background. Who doesn’t remember the cost cutting appeal of off shoring or how well this method enabled companies to recession proof their business? Your employees haven’t forgotten.


So I don’t blame them for cringing when they see us coming. Resist when I talk about Lean as a driver of a high performing culture. Unfortunately I’m not the first consultant who’s walked into their house weaving jargon-y tales of performance utopia, throwing around Japanese terminology. They’ve had Lean “done to them” before and are leery of what they fear is management’s way of masking layoffs.


If you’re considering introducing Lean into your organization, I offer the following cheat sheet against which to check your intentions and expectations. 


• Sensitive to culture• Coercive
• Employee driven• Top down
• A tool that SHOULD be deployed enterprise wide• Just for operations
• About increasing capacity AND capability• Just for cutting cost
• Employee engagement• Layoffs
• A continuous exercise• A one and done endeavor
• Most successful when aligned to strategic goals• Sustainable when launched in a vacuum
• A major change initiative• A simple production upgrade
• Being applied successfully in Banking, Healthcare,
Energy, Agriculture, Construction and other industries
• Solely the domain of industrial manufacturers