It’s The Culture Dummy

Today’s title was the phrase that was told to me when I first started in my lean journey during a transformation process.

When going through a lean implementation there are two aspects we look at:

1) Technical and tangible aspects
a. Design elements
b. Scheduling
c. Staffing
d. And other tools

2) Non-technical and intangible aspects
a. Culture
b. Morale
c. Willingness and ability to change

Often times we put most of our effort into the tangible items because we feel since we can “touch” these items we can have greater impact on our change. With Lean, culture is the main driver of impact. Any change made will be temporary unless your culture changes. You’ll spend the majority of your time (initially) working on the tangible aspects but your impact really comes from cultural changes:


The reason culture is so important is that with Lean the people are equally integral to process as any piece of machinery or process. Solutions are driven not just from management/engineering to the floor but the people running the process on a daily basis are empowered and responsible for fixing process issues. Improvement isn’t viewed as a process with bureaucracy; improvement is just the way we do businesses. An example would be instead of organizing Kaizen events three weeks out and then having follow-up meetings to sustain the events we would have a suggestion, pull the team together to implement and continue to run the business with the new change in place.

The next question becomes how do we focus more on culture? Changing the culture is like losing 100 pounds. It takes time and effort and you will not see overnight results. Here are some things that can be done to make the cultural transition easier:

Train, Train, Train
-Training people on how to do and implement Lean will help everyone be on the same page and make improvements easier to manage

Change the metric
-People respect what you measure
-You want to measure the right metrics and hold people accountable to team metrics and individual metrics

Management needs to support the new culture
-Managers are integral to making a Lean culture work. The more the managers support and practice Lean principles the likelier the success of a Lean program.