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Author: Barry Jeffrey

Senior Partner,

Lean Consultant


Many organisations have been ‘burnt’ by a poor Lean Consultant. Those that come in looking smart, energetic, talking but not listening. The one’s with the smooth PowerPoint sales pitch, claiming to be the best with in the field. You know the type. Then once you have hired them, their lack of interpersonal skills and poor depth of knowledge come to the forefront, and within a few days of them starting to work with your team people are being turned off about the whole notion of Lean. Even at this early stage, your Lean journey is already off on a bad start.

Selecting the right Lean Consultant for your business can be a minefield and is not always easy. Of course, all consultants will claim to have a good level of knowledge of Lean; this is part and parcel of any sales pitch. But as we all know, a Lean consultant that only knows the lean tools is simply not enough.

A good Lean Consultant will have built up a sound working knowledge over a number of years of actual implementation. It’s not enough for a consultant to have two or three successful clients. The implementation of Lean techniques will be different for industry sectors and companies because the business environments vary significantly.

A good Lean Consultant will have successfully implemented Lean in maybe 30 or more companies. They will have honed their skills and been immersed in Lean at a leading Lean organisation like Toyota or Nissan. Not as many claim, gained a degree from a leading university in performance improvement or trained as a ‘black belt’ with some ‘credited organisation’. Becoming a good Lean Consultant takes experience, pure and simple.

In addition to having solid implementation experience, the best consultants will also have good corporate level experience and will be well-grounded in the realities of the business world. A good Lean Consultant will be ready to roll up their sleeves at a moment’s notice and work alongside implementation teams and in the next breath be sitting in the boardroom discussing strategic implementation with the senior team. This type of approach comes with years of practical experience.

Credibility is vital as a good Lean Consultant will spend significant time working at all levels of the organisation. This means he or she must be able to develop a good relationship with the organisation quickly. This is much easier when the consultant has an established level of credibility and a proven track record.  The best Lean Consultants have the skills to convey the message to employees at all levels, from the boardroom to the shop floor.

Lean consulting organisations have different capabilities and come in all sizes and shapes. Similarly to any other profession, generally the best value is not always the least expensive. Low cost consultants may appear to offer value for money, and may be able to implement the basic lean principles and move your business a short distance along it’s Lean journey. But rarely will they be able to think and work at a strategic level. Pushing and challenging your organisation at the right time and in the right places. To truly transform your business practices to world-class operation takes real skill and knowledge. Select your Lean Consultant on what they will add to your Lean journey not on the ticket price.  The reality is it may cost a few thousands more, but the alternative may end up costing you millions in missed opportunities.

In Summary, you should only look for Lean Consultants with the skills and experience to achieve outstanding results. Make sure you choose the right Lean Consultant for the right reasons. This will ensure that you have experts that will truly partner with you, making sure that you gain the maximum strategically from the process and generate substantial returns not only in a short time, but also on an on-going basis, year on year.

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us
Lean Crunch


Why do so many organisations fail to make Lean work successfully? Lets look at something we call the Lean Crunch Phenomena.

Over the years, many companies have tried ‘Lean’, interestingly only a relatively small number consider that they have succeeded in making their organisation truly ‘Lean’.
Those that fail, in most cases, is not for want or effort. Indeed most organisations that try to become Lean invest time, effort and quite often significant sums of money in hiring ‘Lean’ Consultants. Yet after a period of time their enthusiasm for the process starts to diminish and they disengage from the process.
Normally the comments at that time are something like, ‘It has some benefits, but it was not for us’ or ‘it just consumed too much time and we do not have the resources’ or even ‘The workforce just did not take to it’.
This just goes to prove, being ‘Lean’ is not easy. So why do organisations struggle with the introduction of Lean concepts and processes?
Let’s looks a little deeper at why this is and what the typical patterns of failure are.
Over the years as a Lean Consultant, I have listened to many tales and stories of failed ‘Lean’ programs and interestingly many of those that have failed to make Lean work effectively, normally drop the initiative after 1 or 2 years. Nearly all follow a pattern that leads to a decision point. One we will call the Lean Crunch Point.
Most will have put a great deal of effort into making Lean work for them, but typically have failed to get the process of controlling and linking the various elements of Lean correct. This inevitably means that at some point people begin to question if Lean is right for the business.

LCP Giff

The above chart shows that as the levels of ‘low hanging fruit’ diminish over time, the results become less. At this point people’s enthusiasm and appetite for Lean will change at all levels of the organisation. The excitement of the initial days of the program will diminish and the pressures of day to day business start to take priority. Kaizen activities will, unless planned well, start to become more difficult and lose focus. People will start to shy away from tackling the more difficult areas because of the lack of clear direction.
When this happens, sooner or later the question will be asked at senior level, is Lean working?
In effect we are now at the ‘Lean Crunch Point’

At the Lean Crunch Point, normally one of 3 directions is chosen.

Not for us
Many companies have a history of ‘flavour of the month’. Sometimes this is triggered by the arrival of a new CEO or senior member with a point to prove or a desire to put his or her mark on the company. Sometimes it is simply the review of what Lean has actually delivered to the bottom line or it could be simply the program has run out of steam and lost focus. In any case this path normally leads to Lean thinking being dropped and badged as ‘not right for us’ or ‘it didn’t work because it only really works in automotive’

Happy Kaizen
Sometimes Businesses see a good level of benefits, but fail to fully harness the power that using Lean strategically can bring. This normally means that on a day to day level some Lean tools will remain in the organisation, but Lean is not driven from the top in a strategic manner. Normally in this situation, Lean is left to the ‘CI department’ or to the shop floor supervisor. So what happens is that Lean is used more as a ‘mole hitting’ tool when there is a problem. Lean tends in this case, to be used when people are happy that a quick kaizen will fix the issue rather than as a planned intervention as part of a strategic value stream improvement.

Let’s do this
Quite often this path is taken after a lot of soul searching and discussion as to why Lean has not fully delivered. Usually this path will be entered with a new level of commitment from the senior management but little else. The key here is to understand that any Lean initiative must be linked strategically to the top level goals of the business and to embed it’s thinking into the culture of the organisation.

So how do we do this?
In order for an organisation to be successful, Leadership must take steps to close the gap between today’s performance and an organisation’s vision and take a strategic approach to the improvement activities.
Lean is not simply a set of tools that can be wheeled out as required; it is a holistic approach to changing the way an organisation operates day to day. In effect, the company culture.

Leadership has to be just that; Leadership. They must believe, teach and live the process with everyone else. Lean is not something that can be left to a department or an individual. It starts with setting a clear vision for the direction of the organisation. This has to come from the top. Processes must be put in place top to bottom to ensure that the message is understood. If this is not done you are simply loading the organisation for failure.
Leaders need to be continuously looking for the signs of the onset of the Lean Crunch Phenomena and recognise  when the Lean Crunch Point is coming. The message then needs to be clear and the  direction of the organisation reinforced. Additional effort should be put into the process so that people are left in no doubt that Lean is the way forward and the senior team believe in the process 100%

The Lean Crunch Phenomena is something that nearly all organisations that decide to embark on a Lean Journey will experience. The successful ones are those that have the ability to recognise when the process it reaching the Lean Crunch Point and take action.

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us
Best Practice


Ever heard of Yokoten?


Having spent years working in a Toyota plant I know what makes it tick, and what to a large degree gives Toyota its competitive edge when it comes to productivity and ultimately the very high ‘uptime’ of the process.

In this blog I thought I would discuss one of the skill’s that the team at Toyota have that I am yet to experience with such commitment anywhere else. A technique known as Yokoten.

When a problem of any nature, be it safety, quality, breakdown, or supply chain occurs, you would expect the problem is very quickly addressed, a countermeasure is put in place and importantly, the countermeasure is confirmed as good by proper checks.

This is where Toyota introduces the differentiator, Yokoten

A very simple question is asked “Is there any potential that the problem could occur somewhere else at some point in the future?”

The discipline of the Toyota production system then requires the team to religiously perform checks to find out the answer, as a matter of priority.

If the answer is yes, the fix from the original problem is quickly put in place in all the locations that have the potential for the original issue to manifest itself. Thus preventing a future issue occurring.

This is done, even if there is a cost or time implication, because the cost of a further breakdown or quality issue would be far greater in the long run.

Yokoten is almost a religion. The question is asked every time by managers at problem reviews. Importantly, no blame is apportioned when a problem is highlighted. Everyone understands the philosophy. It’s simple.

‘To find a problem once is good, it’s an opportunity to improve. But to find it a second time means the system has failed.’

The focus is on prevention of reoccurrence and not on a witch hunt to apportion blame.

When an A3 report is used, the final two questions are ‘does this issue exist elsewhere’ and ‘has Yokoten been completed’. Only when these two questions are answered, is the problem considered closed.

Yokoten is also strengthened through regular departmental meetings in order to ensure cross learning is maximised.

Yokoten does not stop at plant level. Production working group meetings between representatives of all plants are held on a regular basis. Careful attention is paid to best practices at all the facilities.

This level of use of Yokoten helps to ensure that all plants learn from each other and maintain levels of safety, quality and performance across the entire organisation.

Yokoten is a very powerful tool, simple in concept. Many mangers and organisations could use it without any cost. It is in reality just one extra question at the end of the resolution of a problem. All it really requires is discipline and commitment.

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us
Thinking Lean


Thinking Lean is something I do all the time, it comes with the territory. But at this time of the year I also like to do something else. Take a break and enjoy the very last throws of summer somewhere warm. This year I am lucky enough to be in a small Greek village on the north east coast of Corfu.

This is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Manufacturing or the rigorous demands of FMCG. A laid back place with just 5 tavernas, 2 waterside cafes and a couple of small shops. Not the sort of place you would expect to find good examples of lean processes or practices, however this started me thinking. Could I find any?

Not too surprisingly I found plenty and why wouldn’t there be. This village revolves around tourism, talking to the locals they experience huge swings in tourist volumes and demographic mix throughout the year. They have variation in external factors like the weather and economic factors. Even news articles reporting on the influx of refugees Greece has been experiencing has had a direct impact on the locals.

In many ways this village is exactly like any manufacturing operation or any other type of business. So this is the perfect place to dig in and look for examples of the locals thinking lean.

The story of my Greek Sunday roast

Yes, you heard right. A fantastic Sunday roast, whilst overlooking the cooling waters of the Mediterranean. But what could this possibly do with thinking lean?

Walking through the small village on a Sunday morning, suddenly the owner of a very nice taverna suddenly approached me and shook my hand. This was not so unusual, after all it is a small village that I have visited a number of times. ‘Come on in my friend and I will buy you a drink’. Of course we accepted and as we walked in a sat down he said ‘let me fetch the drinks and then we can talk business’

Business, on a Sunday morning?

He came back, and sat down with us.

‘Now my friend, I have been very busy this morning. I have been into the mountains and collected some very nice lamb. So today we are cooking fresh slow roasted lamb using a traditional recipe that my mother used to use with herbs, spices and roasted potatoes. But I am only offering this to my very best customers’

Bit of a wild tale, going into the mountains, mothers’ recipe etc. but this got me thinking. What is this guy actually doing? Is it just another sales pitch? Or is he thinking a little deeper, he was putting a lot of effort into selling this story. Clearly he was going to use this technique throughout the day on a number of different people.

So let’s look at this from the perspective of the taverna owner.

Local slow cooked Lamb is a well-known Greek dish but for him as the owner it also presents some problems to put on the menu. It is a ‘long lead-time’ item. It takes hours to prepare and cook. The raw materials are very expensive, so if he does not sell it, his scrap cost could offset any profit. His customer base is variable. What time they eat, what they eat and even where they eat is based on a whole series of external factors he can’t control.

I chatted to him about this for a while and it became clear that what he was actually doing was a scaled down version of S&OP planning. Without knowing it he was thinking lean.

He recognised that he needed to align his sales, production and material ordering to maximise his profits. He knew that if he left it until the customers were at the point of actually ordering, he had less chance of influencing the type of main course that the customer would order.

One of the other side benefits he explained to me was that because his target was primarily sell the Lamb dish that evening, orders for other menu items would be reduced. This allowed him to run with less people in the kitchen that night and give some of the staff the night off. Again he was thinking lean by using the S&OP process to plan his staffing.

Without formal training he and all of his staff were thinking Lean. The taverna owner had set very clear targets, all his staff understood the objective and the reasoning. They worked together as one unit to deliver. They were a team.

Many organisations could learn from this very simple example. S&OP planning requires top level targets to be set and all department s to align. All too often I see departments without alignment. I see different departments with completely different metrics. Metrics drive behavior. If you measure the sales department by total value of sales, this does not always align with the process capability of the manufacturing process. Both need to be working in unison, just like my Friendly Greek taverna owner.

Oh, and for the record. The Lamb was fantastic!

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us


Why does Lean fail in some organisations and not others? The simple answer is Leadership.  Leadership can make or break a Lean programme. Let’s look at some of the common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

  1. Remember, Leadership is exactly that, Leadership. It cannot be delegated to someone else.

One of the very basic points about Lean that many organisations miss is it will require people to think and perform differently. When asking an organisation to change, Leaders, at all levels, will need to change with it. They will need to become ‘active teachers’.

Singular, clear directions need to be set and communicated from the top down. The message needs to be understood by all heads of departments and more importantly, they need to believe in it.  The senior team needs to be “Engaged”, this means that process improvement activities are in their schedules and that they turn up and attend. It should not be seen as an initiative that is assigned to others.

  1. Don’t forget Middle Management.

Middle managers are notoriously difficult to get on board. They often struggle to see the big picture when faced with both upward and downward pressures. This layer of the structure requires extra attention, because without their support it will be incredibly hard to get Lean thinking embedded into the organisation. They are the ones that talk to the workforce on a day to day basis. They are the ones that turn instructions into actions.

Take time to get the Middle managers on board. Help develop their Leadership skills and help them to understand the need for the Lean approach in their part of the business. If leaders lead, middle managers will follow and the cultural shift will be easier.

  1. Leadership styles are different in a Lean organisation.

Remember, Lean is not only a physical change tool, but also a cultural change model. So by default this means that Leadership styles have to change. Lean Leadership requires a bias for action, a proactive culture. Out goes silo mentality and in comes strong teamwork. In a strong Lean organisation, teams have clear aligned targets and team leaders are expected to measure their own success against those targets. If they are missing them, then they take actions to improve the process in question.

This requires a very different set of leadership skills to what you would expect in a more traditional ‘reactive’ organisation. Leaders will need to be trained and mentored in this new way of thinking. Invest the time and effort and Lean thinking will thrive.

  1. When there is a problem, go to the ‘Gemba’.

The ‘Gemba’ is where the actual work is done. Lean Leaders always observe the actual processes as they are performed, and talk to the people who perform them. They are the ones that know the finer details of how a process is performed and in many cases know the answer to the issue. If they do not know the answer then they always have information that will help solve the problem.  In a Lean organisation issues are not solved on a spreadsheet or in a meeting room.

Genchi gembutsu – go and see the actual event

  1. Communicate, communicate and then communicate again.

Introducing a new initiative like Lean, changing the way people are expected to work is a big undertaking. People are naturally nervous of change and the reasons for it. Make sure that communication is a two way process and listen. As Leaders ensure you over-communicate to offset the natural fear and build confidence.

  1. Learning by doing

Do not fall into the trap of thinking Lean is just another training exercise and that it’s introduction can be achieved by hiring a bunch of consultants to run one day classroom training courses. From a practical stand point most improvement activity is accomplished by using the simple tools from the Lean toolkit. Focus on training people in the discipline of seeing problems from a customer perspective and address them head-on.

The best way by far to get Lean embedded into an organisation is for the Leadership to let people try things. This of course needs to be done in a controlled manner without risk to the business. But sometimes Leaders need to back off and let people try for themselves. Learning by doing promotes a sense of inclusion, ownership and trust. If you do not try, you will not learn.

Quite often, Senior Leadership teams find this incredibly hard to do. This is because it involves letting go of some levels of control and devolving them downwards. But the benefits in adopting this approach far outweigh the negatives. I call this “freedom within a framework”

If you would like to understand how LMAC can help you move your Lean programme to the next level Contact us
7 wastes


Most people that have been involved in Lean will be familiar with the principles that waste exists to some degree in every single activity we perform. Whether it is at work or in our day to day business. And in order to improve our processes and become Lean, we must remove waste.

Most will also be aware that in general waste is split in 7 types or categories:

  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over Production
  • Over Processing
  • Defects

Normally remembered by the acronym TIM WOOD.

But my question is this, how many realise that this is only part of the big picture in understanding ‘waste’, its effects and how to address it. TIM WOOD can only help us so far along our Lean journey.

To fully understand this we need to go back a step and really try to understand some of the core fundamentals of Lean. Let’s start at the very beginning and understand why the removal of wastes within processes is judged so important.

The single most important factor in developing a lean process is the ‘Voice of the customer’. Understanding what the customer needs, in what volume, and when it is needed.

Having understood this, the next step is to develop a system that will deliver to the customer needs on time, to the correct quality, in the right volume. Sounds simple but this is where the problems start. If the process is not flexible enough to meet the changes in customer demand, inefficiencies creep in and hence the level of waste within the process grow.

This is where most peoples understanding (including many lean practitioners) of waste starts to break down.

You may have heard the term ‘Muda’. Muda translated from Japanese is Waste. However this is only part of the story.

When Taiichi Ohno, Sakichi Toyoda, and Kiichiro Toyoda, originally set out to develop the Toyota production system, they recognised that the root causes of waste in a process were much deeper than many consider today.

They defined 3 types of waste, MUDA, MURA and MURI

What has happen is that Muda has been given much greater attention since over time it has been well defined into the 7 categories I mentioned earlier. Because of this, many Lean practitioners have learned to see just Muda, they fail to see in the same prominence the wastes of Mura (unevenness) and Muri (overburden). Whilst they are focused on getting their process under control they do not give enough time or consider to the impact of the other two types of waste.

So let’s take time to consider both Mura and Muri.

Mura or unevenness occurs at a number of levels within a process and needs to be taken into account when ‘Just in time’ is being put in place. Consider this, what happens when we reduce or remove inventory (one of our 7 classic wastes)?

Well, now that the safety buffer has been removed, the process will be put under strain to deliver in a much more responsive way. The entire value chain will be asked to flex up and down in speed. The impact of this change can be devastating to the organisation. Manning levels have to be adjusted (If cost and efficiency are to be maintained), Suppliers will be asked to change delivery schedules at short notice. Maintenance schedules may need to be changed. In fact a whole plethora of issues arise and all take time to manage. Also, because of the need to produce at peak volume at any time, in theory equipment, workers, inventory and all other elements required for production must always be prepared for peak production. This adds both cost and waste.

Unless systems and processes are put in place to do this, waste starts to creep back into the process.

Toyota considered this in the development of the Toyota production system. It took it into account with the concept of Heijunka or production smoothing. The concept of Heijunka may at first appear to contradict the ‘Just in time’ and lean production philosophies. But it must be remembered that done correctly small amounts of well managed strategic stock will both aid efficiency and lower overall cost.

In general, the concept of Heijunka is to try and smooth the production rate within acceptable limits. There are a number of tools and tricks to this which are again linked to the original thoughts behind the Toyota production system.

For example, Toyota’s final assembly line never assembles the same automobile model in a batch. Production is levelled by making first one model, then another model, then yet another. The pattern or order of the 3 models is then adjusted to smooth the daily rate based on customer demand (take time). This flexibility is one of the key reasons for having a mixed model process. But in order to achieve this Standard, work must be well defined and implemented otherwise the waste of ‘MURI’ will be the issue.

Muri or overburden, generally occurs when Standard work is not well defined or when additional tasks have been placed upon someone through a process change without consideration to their other workload or line balance.

Within most companies it is the case, but the importance of Standard Work cannot be underestimated. A smooth process with well trained people has a number of other benefits. When everyone knows the standard condition, and the standardised work sequences, heightened morale is seen. Normally along with improved quality, improved productivity and reduced costs.

So when you are next observing a process for waste, look a little deeper. Look for the 3 M’s consider MURA and MURI and think deeper than just the classic 7 wastes.

Want to know more ?

If you would like to know more about Muda, Mura, and Muri or would like to know how LMAC could help your business with its Lean programme   Contact us



In my line of work, I often get to see the inner workings of production facilities and observe how much Lean thinking is really going on.

Depending upon the industry, the operation and look of the process may differ, but one thing that is common among the majority of line leaders is a commitment and dedication to keep the ‘line running at all costs’.

But often, these costs are detrimental to the business’ most important resource – its people. The stress levels that line leaders put themselves under on a daily basis are huge. But why?

Let’s think about it. What is actually the role of a line leader and, more importantly, what does the organisation expect of him or her?
The answer is not ground-breaking. To keep their part of the process running smoothly, producing high quality product, on time, at minimum cost. Right?

Yet in nearly all the facilities I visit, this apparently simple task appears to be extraordinarily difficult. I see people running around with clip boards. I see people counting parts or in some cases, just looking for them. Often I see team members waiting for instructions or guidance and scrap material hidden under benches. In fact, a whole series of examples of what appears to be a lack of organisation.

Another thing that you can be sure of is that the process was never designed to run like that. So what’s gone wrong?

To my mind the answer is not a lack of organisation, but the fact that the process is not ‘visual’. That is, being able to see what is going on in the production line so you can look for problems earlier and investigate them properly, rather than applying a quick fix.

One of the key tools in Lean manufacturing is Abnormality Management. This is a system that involves finding a problem, investigating the issue and fixing it, all in a controlled manner. It’s about leaders being able to identify issues easily then taking action to return the situation back to normal, or the standard.

Sounds simple, but unless you can actually see what is going on, how are you going to find the problem?

The answer to this is really two-fold. Firstly, all the common Lean philosophies need to be put in place. For example, excess inventory needs to be reduced.
I always say that in an environment that is not Lean, inventory is a supervisor’s best friend. The buffer it provides allows the process to continue to flow for a period whilst any problem is tackled. On the surface, this may appear to be a good thing, but the reality is, all that the inventory is doing is masking the extent of the problem. This normally means that the root cause of the problem is never really fully understood and therefore, never put to bed properly.

Secondly, we need to use a tool to be able to see what is really going on – in Lean, one of the tools we can use is referred to as Ohno’s Circle.

Taiichi Ohno was the Toyota executive who is credited with much of the thinking behind the system known today as the Toyota Production System and what we today tend to refer to as Lean in general.

Ohno was well-known for walking onto the shop floor and drawing a circle on the ground. He would then go and stand in the circle and observe, think and analyse. Learn what was actually going on. From this study he would then have enough knowledge to improve the process.

So this is what I encourage line leaders to do:

If necessary, arrange for some supervisory cover for 30 minutes (so as not to be disturbed). Armed with a pad of paper and pen, Go into the work area and stand in one central spot (it is not necessary to mark the floor like Ohno, unless you want others to do the same and compare notes).
Stand in the circle and observe for 15 minutes. Do not move out of the circle, not even to ask a question, just observe.

Write down any problems that are seen and also things that are difficult to understand. At the end of the 15 minutes, step out of the circle and analyse what was seen. Were there parts of the process that were difficult to understand the status of? Were there problems with flow or quality? Consider each thing that was seen. How could the process be made just a little better?
Now in the remaining 15 minutes, fix one problem!

This may seem a little extreme but it works. I encourage line leaders to do this on a daily basis as part of their daily routine. As long as the each time one problem is fixed or something is added to the process to make it more visual, very quickly the process will start to come into control. The line leader will start to feel more in control and the firefighting will reduce.

All this will lead to the line leader having time to do what he or she should be doing – leading from the front, not chasing their tail.

So next time you have 30 minutes to spare, think Lean,  grab some paper and go and stand in a circle just like Ohno!

Find out more about LMAC 

If you are interested in finding out how LMAC could help your businesses Lean thinking or progress your Lean transformation, contact us.

Lean implementation


Having spent almost 25 years working around Lean and implementing Lean in many organisations, I have learnt some very important and key lessons, admittedly some of these the hard way.

But the key is that my experience is born, by doing. If you do not try something you will not learn.

Lean is a very powerful philosophy, a way to do business in a way that works for the customer, the senior management team and most importantly, the employees. It will work in any organisation, if it is properly understood and the ‘why we are doing this’ is clear.

This is not an extensive list, but in my experience these are some of the most important points to consider.

  1. Lean is a powerful strategic weapon, not a tool kit

Many Leaders and organisations look at Lean as a process to ‘rip out cash’ or a process to ‘remove low hanging fruit’, both phrases I have heard many times. Many view Lean as a set of ‘tools’ that can be used to respond to short term pressures that a business may be facing. In fact I have heard many consultants use these words in their sales pitch. Some even ‘guarantee specific savings within 12 months’ by focusing on the ‘low hanging fruit’. A very attractive proposition if you are under pressure to deliver savings. But what about year 2, year 3 or beyond, what happens when all the low hanging fruit has gone? What happens when the layoffs have happened and the workforce has lost faith in Lean? Where do you go from there? Find a new ‘magic bullet’?

The real power of Lean lies in developing a culture of long term improvement and constantly challenging the norm. This will only happen when the culture of a business looks to everyone to help. Physical change should be looked at as the outcome of this process.

  1. Implementing Lean is not easy. If it was everyone would be doing it.

Developing or changing the cultural style of a business, the way it looks at problems and asks questions of itself, is hard work. It requires the development of a management style that is both proactive and listening. A lot of decision making needs to be done at board level before any Lean implementation takes place. There will be, and should be a lot of questions asked before committing to the development of a Lean organisation. Leaders need to be 100% behind the process and be prepared to lead from the front. A cliché I know, but it is the role of a leader to ‘lead’ not criticise or back bite.

Only when all the senior team are talking as one, will the trust of the workforce be gained and the power of Lean be seen. This Process takes a great deal of effort. Be sure you are clear about this. However for the organisations that have the strength and vision, the rewards far outstrip the initial pain.

  1. Think about the ‘Why’ not the ‘How’ and ‘What’

Strategically think about ‘Why’ we want to do this. It does not start with the ‘How’ best to fix a problem or ‘what’ are the returns. Of course these are important, but being able to explain to everyone involved ‘Why’ we are embarking on this journey in clear simple terms, will win trust and belief that the process has been thought out at the highest level. Lean needs to be linked to the vision of the organisation, its core values, not just it’s ‘numbers’. In short it needs to be the ‘way we do business’

  1. Lean is a journey, not a race or a competition.

Do not view becoming a lean organisation as something you can achieve overnight. As much as you think your organisation has the skills and the power to do this quickly, it does not. Companies like Toyota set 10 year targets and visions to improve and grow, not 3 year plans with unachievable stretch goals. And they already have the Lean culture in place. Companies do not become world class overnight. To beat your competition use lean strategically to help build strong foundations for long term growth

  1. Lean is about learning by doing.

One of the biggest issues that many organisations face is blame culture. Part of the cultural shift that needs to be achieved is removing that culture of ‘fear’ and replacing it with a style that gives permission for people to experiment and learn. To make mistakes from time to time is good, so long are you learning from it.

  1. Use the expertise of a consultant to accelerate the process, not as a crutch.

Use experts to help you in the initial stages, invest in knowledge and experience. The right consultant will provide you with a depth of experience in starting the deployment process off in a controlled manner and will act as a sounding board for ideas. In my experience, having someone who is ‘neutral’ helps the senior management team cut through internal politics and reach consensus on direction. A good Lean consultant will also coach, not lead your organisation along the way. But do not rely on them longer term. Plan to put a framework in place to develop internal skills and knowledge.

Find out more about LMAC 

If you would like to know how LMAC and how if could help with Lean Implementation in your business , take a look around our website or contact us.




The Unknown
As we know, there are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know, there are known unknowns.
That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
Donald Rumsfeld (2002)

At first reading this may seem like a crazy statement, but when you look closely at it and think about it, this is the reality for many businesses.

Businesses and many business leaders get bogged down in the day-to-day operations. Often so much that they cannot see the wood from the trees. Many never really look above the horizon and ask the simple question, “Are we running this business in the best way possible, or is there a better way?”

Lean manufacturing is well known for its ability to remove waste from physical processes. But used strategically, Lean is much more than that.

Deployed correctly across an organisation, Lean has the ability to challenge the norm and start to ask questions across all levels. Culturally, many businesses operate with some level of silo mentality, which stifles creativity – since people only see what they need to see. In short, teams operate with ‘known knowns’ and ‘things we know we know’.

By using Lean tool sets like Hoshin Kanri, organisations can start to understand how they are really performing as a whole and what is really important to drive the business forwards.

So what exactly is Hoshin Kanri? Interpreted from Japanese, Hoshin in English means “setting a direction or objective”. Kanri translates as “management”. So Hoshin Kanri can be loosely translated as “the management of direction and objectives”. This in turn sets a platform for Strategic Lean deployment

In a typical organisation, quite often the process of setting top-level business objectives and communicating them clearly across the entire business is poorly done, or is very often over-complex.

Within your organisation, ask yourself these simple questions:
  • Is everyone pulling in the same direction?
  • Are all managers focused on the exactly the same goals?
  • Is every task that people are undertaking completely necessary?
  • Are there projects or tasks being worked on that do not contribute to the top-level objectives?

The Hoshin Kanri process helps unravel these points and once this is done, clear directions can be communicated and simple, clear directions can be set. Teams and departments can then be challenged to work collectively and silo thinking can start to be broken down. Clear, simple, common performance metrics and targets can be set and measured.

Once this has been done the teams and departments can be asked to process map cross-functionally and the question can be asked: “Is this process really achieving the desired result in the most cost effective way?” Normally the answer is no.

In effect at this point, the organisation is ‘learning to see’ and process maps can be used as a common communication tool.

The more common Lean tools can then be deployed, to identify waste and look at the ‘known unknowns’. These can be studied and improvement activities can be put into place.

Over time the whole organsiation will change the way it looks at the way it does business. A cultural shift will start to take place. People will start to challenge the norm. This is what Lean is really all about – not just looking for waste.

As Donald Rumsfeld said, “We know there are some things we do not know”.

Lean deployed correctly will help look for these opportunities that exist and start to understand them. In effect, Lean will help in getting your organisation ‘learning to see’.

Find out more about LMAC

At LMAC, we’re experts in applying Lean principles like Hoshin Kanri to business. We work with companies across the globe to help them set top-level business objectives, create efficiencies and improve their performance. If you’re interested in finding out more, feel free to contact us.