Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lean Success? Not Without Patience

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It's no secret that virtually all lean deployments fail to achieve intended results. One of the main reasons for this is a lack of patience in the time and effort required for transformation.  Success with lean requires a long term commitment to learning, consistent focus, and patience.  If the company's leaders are not in it for the long-haul, it's probably best not to start the journey.

The Cambridge Dictionary of American English defines patience as the ability to accept delay, suffering, or annoyance without complaining or becoming angry.  When applied to business business, patience refers to the ability to accept delays, setbacks, and periods of doubt without abandoning a chosen direction.  Although there will be benefits along the way that will make many people feel good about progress, there will also be bumps in the road that will make some question whether lean is worth the effort.

Make no mistake that a company will never be "lean." The best you can hope for is to get to the point where continual learning and improvement become so engrained in the culture that lean thinking does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary.  There will always be a need for coaches and commitment to maintaining - even staunchly protecting - the culture because the natural tendency for things to return to the "old way" will never go away.

It may seem strange that the road to continual and rapid improvement requires patience but it's true.  And unfortunately, patience is one characteristic that is sorely missing in Western business.

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