Creating a Lean Culture

We often think that learning the tools of any given program is enough. However, through extensive research and years of experience, we know that the failure of most programs is in the lack of support for and belief in the concepts of the process - it is not from a lack of technical know-how.


While we often preach the importance of management support (and, yes, this is critical to success!), the fact is that for any program to work over the long-haul, everyone needs to have ‘buy-in’ to the process itself. This means that the first thing that has to change is the thinking - the culture.   The culture of a company includes all employees in all departments and at all levels. It is their cumulative beliefs and attitudes about their work and their company.


Creating a Lean culture is not something that happens overnight,  it is a gradual change of attitude that comes when people believe in what they are doing. The following are six fundamental steps to achieving this state of mind. They are by no means all of the things that need to be done in your own company, but, instead, constitute the core values.

Six Basic Steps to Cultural Change

  1. It begins with enlightenment. That is to say, everyone in the company must be informed of the concepts and reasoning behind the direction the company is taking.
  2. People need to understand, not only, WHAT is coming at them, but WHY and most importantly, HOW WILL IT HELP ME?
  3. Use as many methods of getting “the message” out as possible. (Formal meetings with the whole company and/or individual departments, newsletters, posters, video, etc.) Create an air of excitement surrounding the process or program.
  4. Ask lots of questions to ensure that people understand what is going on and how a certain process works. LISTEN to the answers. Also, create an environment of open-communication by encouraging people to share their own questions or concerns.
  5. Never “punish” people or yell if something is not going well or as planned. Instead, find out why it is not working and - together with that person or team - find a way to improve or correct the situation.
  6. Finally, it is important to generate ideas from the source - meaning - go to the person doing the job, or using the tool, or running the machine, or driving the hi-lo, or filling out the form. THAT’s where you’ll find the knowledge in the company. That’s where you’ll find the improvements, changes and ideas that will, not only improve the company, but will help to create an environment of trust and caring.

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