Different Flavors of Lean for Different Industries


Lean is a bit like ice cream and children.  Everyone thinks that theirs is the best.  Unlike ice cream or children there is no one “best” way to do Lean.  In-fact it will look like the complete opposite in some industries.  Because of this you end up with what it seems like as an endless list of Lean manifestation.

Manifestations of Lean

Each one slightly different than the rest.  So how do you know if you are doing the right one in your industry and the right one for your business at the time?  By the way don’t let the names fool you, tools and principles used in Lean manufacturing can be used in software and those tools in software development can be used in healthcare, etc.

Explain to Me Like I’m 5 – What is Lean?

Lean is a management system designed to focus on the customer by adding more value and removing waste in the processes that you do.  You also want to have your processes flow and you don’t want to overburden anyone or anything in the process.  The real key to the process is defining what is wasteful in your industry and what is value added.  For instance in the manufacturing setting where you treat every widget like a commodity you define value just on utilitarian purposes.  However in the service industry where it’s not as much of a commodity you can add value through emotional appeal.  An example of this is spending more time with the doctor to be comforted or have a condition explained to you in greater detail.

How Do I Know Which Version of Lean l Will Need?

Before you can understand what you need you have to understand what type of communication happens in your organization.  There are four main types of communication styles:

Communication Style


Collaborative Information is shared with everyone and decisions are made on a broad basis
Hero Based A few key resources drive most of the progress and change.  Information is funneled through these resources.
Political Information is only shared if it helps “me or my team.”
Command and Control Information typically only goes one way and there are only a few decision makers at the top of the organization.

For more information on communication styles watch our webinar or listen to our radio show appearance.

Rule of thumb on when to use the different types of Lean


Type of Lean

Pace of Change in My Industry

Problem Solving Complexity

Information Flow of your organization

Lean Manufacturing Low, Medium Low, Medium Command and control, Hero based, Political, Collaborative 
Lean Services Low, Medium, High Medium, High Hero Based, Political, Collaborative 
Lean Start-up High Medium, High Collaborative, Hero Based 
Lean Healthcare Medium, High Medium, High Political, Collaborative, Hero Based 
Lean Government Low Low, Medium, High Command and Control, Political 
Agile Low, Medium, High Low Command and Control, Hero Based 
Lean Six Sigma Low, Medium Medium, High Command and control, Hero based, Political, Collaborative 


How do you use Lean in your organization?

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