We can talk about Lean this, Lean that, Six Sigma, black belt, yellow belt, kanban, kaizen, small groups and more all day long. However, to truly implement the fundamental theory behind lean must we not adopt a humble attitude? Or at least a substantially more humble attitude than some businesses have?
We can apply sig sigma as many times as we want and it can certainly improve many different aspects; however, the true essence of Lean, I would argue is developing the right mindset which ultimately is one of constantly looking to improve. Lean at its best is meant to involve everyone from the highest manager to the laborer. Lean is developing a culture of constant improvement—not a one time-wonder.
Let’s use the famous 7 Wastes as an example here. The 7 wastes are like it says in the word itself, about waste. But in order for anyone to benefit from the 7 Wastes they have to understand that the waste applies to everyone and everything. To a lot of people the idea of the 7 Wastes is meaningless because they think it does not apply to them. Why? Because people have a hard time admitting to the failures/wastes in their life. For a business to benefit from the idea of 7 Wastes, one really has to first humble themselves and understand that the waste theory applies to them. You must admit first that you have problems, that you are weak, that you have waste, and that you are willing to work at it. To understand the 7 Wastes a bit better take a look at this article.
Admitting to having some defects is only the beginning. Our natural tendency is to work on something with the hopes of making it “perfect,” after which we no longer work on it. With this mindset you quickly run out of processes to improve on. The hardest part is developing a constant mindset of humbleness. A mindset that we can always learn and improve on it. Don’t buy into the common phrase; “if it ain’t broke, than don’t fix it.” You should always be looking to improve on everything. But firstly you have to admit to the waste that exists in your life and business.
This is where true Lean begins.