Lean and Change Management
All progress comes from change, but not all change is progress.
If you want to go fast… go alone, if you want to go far… go together
Change management is not only a large part of Lean, it also occurs before, during, and after any
Lean implementation. One should not underestimate the importance of this component to success-
fully disseminate, deploy, and sustain Lean.
IMPLEMENTING LEAN IS ABOUT BALANCE
We have a saying that Lean is 50/50 task vs. people. Fifty percent of Lean is implementing Lean
tools. This is the scientic management part of Lean. The other 50% of Lean is the “people” or
“culture” piece which requires signicant change management. There must be a balance between
these two pieces. If the Lean balance scale swings too much to the scientic management side, we
can end up with low morale and discontent with the ultimate result being unionization. If we swing
too far on the people side, then we end up with no discipline on the oor and no chain of command.
People do whatever they want to do, are not accountable, hoard their knowledge (to protect their
job), and are out of control. That is why striking this balance before, during, and after the ongoing
improvement phase of Lean is so important.
LEAN CULTURE CHANGE
While learning and implementing Lean tools is not easy, implementing the people piece or what
Toyota calls “Respect for Humanity” is much more difcult. The people piece includes encouraging
people not only to buy-in and accept Lean, but also to embrace and sustain the changes. The real
goal of Lean is to create a continuous improvement culture where employees are contributing ideas
every day and supervisors or team leaders have budgeted 50% or more time to implement these
improvements on a daily basis.
Lean is a very difcult culture to create. In discussing this with Jerry Solomon, multiple Shingo
Jerry said, “Why would you want to embark on the Lean journey when over 90%
ofcompanies fail in their quest to truly become Lean? What will your company do differently to
It is extremely important if you are starting a Lean journey that you contemplate and truthfully
answer the question above. We ask this of any healthcare institution or department even thinking
about going down the Lean path. Think through it, plan and map it out, get the right people on
board, don’t waiver, and never look back. Hopefully, we can reverse this to 90% of companies
being successful in implementing Lean and Six Sigma.
Jerrold Solomon, Accounting for World Class Operation (Fort Wayne, IN: WCM Associates) 2007, Who’s Counting (Fort
Wayne, IN: WCM Associates) 2003. Both books won the Shingo Prize.