Your question on Implementing Lean in a process can have many connotations. The first question I hear is, “Is applying Lean principles to a process always successful?” Applying Lean principles is a way to identify and eliminate wastes in a process. Most processes have waste, so yes, applying these principles will generally provide an increased efficiency in the process. Now, how much impact that efficiency has on the process depends on the impact to the customer or the financial value to the company.

The second question I hear is, “If you apply Lean principles, is the change sustainable”? Clearly, this is more difficult to say, yes, it is successful. Changing a process or system is subject to a number of variables, such as acceptance by those working in the process or how it “changes” what people have to do within the new process. Many times these barriers to change will have negative impacts on the intended improvement – thereby impacting its “success.”

Finally I hear the question, “Is applying Lean principles enough to be successful?” A gain in a single process is worthy of celebration. But we are talking about continuous improvement, so the ideal goal is a change to the organization’s culture so that process improvement becomes the inherent way we run the business. Many American manufacturers do a good job of implementing Lean principles in a few areas. However most, in my opinion, are still pursuing the cultural change they desire.

Craig Tickel

Craig is a Senior Consultant at GoLeanSixSigma.com and a Master Black Belt with over 25 years of success working with companies like Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Stepan Company. He’s an expert at helping people learn and apply Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.