Being Lean: Not Just For Fat People

I tell random people what I do and when I tell them I hope companies implement lean they look at me funny and say “you mean like a personal trainer.” The reality is that “being lean” in terms of your body is very similar to “being lean” with a company.

Similarity 1: If you just want a quick fix you can have it but it won’t last unless you change your habits and mindset. You can get liposuction and loose 10-15 pounds but keep eating the same food and being a couch potato and it won’t be long till you’re back to the same situation. You can start using the lean tools like 5S and Kaizen but if you don’t really understand how to use them and change the cultural mindset the gains you get will be very temporary.

Similarity 2: You have to focus on ALL aspects or you won’t be successful. With your body you have to focus on eating right, exercise, rest, and lower stress. All of those factors contribute to weight loss. With a lean company you have to focus on cultural changes, being a learning organization, being able to adapt, and knowing what tools to use and when to use them. Without at least these factors your efforts will not stick.

Similarity 3: You have to do what works for you. There is no one way to get a lean body mass. I use Crossfit for my exercise and eat a Paleo Diet for my nutrition. Other people might do Pilates for their exercise program and the South Beach Diet for their nutrition. With lean for a business you have to address the cultural factors and tools but your journey through the transition will not be the same as others. Many companies start with a 5S program in their manufacturing but that may not always be the best idea. You have to find what works for you and your business.

Similarity 4: You shouldn’t do it alone. Human beings are social creatures so if you want to be successful it usually helps to get others involved. With fitness it’s very important to get a coach to help you along the way to keep you heading towards true north. The same is true for a lean journey; you need someone to keep you on track so you don’t stray and get lost. Even the best athletes in the world have coaches to constantly guide them and get them better The best companies have coaches to keep them on track. Why wouldn’t you?

Similarity 5: Just like weight loss you will hit hurdles in your journey to be a lean company. How you deal with the hurdles will determine the character of you company and you. Are you going to crumble and start eating Twinkies and working out less or are you going to stay on track to your goals. Are you going to revert back to your old ways of doing business or are you going to stick with your lean methods? It won’t be easy but if it were then everyone in the world would be thin and in shape and every company in the world would operate at their optimal performance level.

Similarity 6: Everyone thinks they know best because they’ve done it their whole life. Everyone has to eat so because they’ve been doing it for so long then they think they know about nutrition so they don’t listen to real experts and don’t experiment with healthier diets. Same is true for exercise programs. With lean in business people are usually protective for the same reasons. They are the experts because they have been doing it their way this long and it’s gotten them where they are today. You have to let go of the “I’m an expert” mindset and listen and learn to keep on top and to get better.

The main points are really that it takes time to be lean in any situation. You have to work on several factors at a time and not just one if you want to be successful and you have to keep working at it.

How do you see yourself on your lean journey?