Why Lean is So difficult Part IV Behaviors


In recent articles we talked about different factors that will cause a Lean Transformation to Fail.  We talked about how strategy is critical and without a big picture of direction it becomes very difficult to manage a Lean Transformation.  We also discussed that how fast or slow you move and the momentum you create can cause a Lean Transformation to fail.  Behaviors is the third leg of that tripod of reasons why Lean Transformations fail.  Behavioral issues can manifest in several ways:

  • Focus on subjective points like attitude vs. objective points like demonstrated behavior
  • Focus on just procedures vs. the outcomes
  • Change is viewed as a disruption of work
  • Compliance is enforced vs. trying to get commitment
  • Lack of commitment to the cause – a “not my job” mentality
  • Changes don’t get implemented and there are breakdowns
  • Being defensive towards change and having the approach of “decide, advocate, defend” vs. “listen, inquire, and co-create”

Reasons for Behavioral Challenges

When Lean was first developed by Toyota it was used as a way to gain operational efficiency and through time we’ve now developed it into a management system.  Now when people apply Lean to their organization they are usually enamored by the gains they can get by implementing the tools of Lean and at times don’t focus as much on the management system.  The reason so many people run into behavioral challenges is because of the different systems at play.

  • Strategy
  • HR Systems
  • Reward Systems
  • Current Processes
  • Leadership Systems
  • Organizational Structure

These six systems influence how people will behave in any given organization.  Lean typically will only evaluate one of these systems (current processes) and usually doesn’t address the others. If these systems don’t support your Lean effort it’s setting up to be counter productive.

Case Study

A manufacturing company recently hired a new COO and he wants to do a Lean transformation.  He decides to bring in trainers and start with a 5s effort.  The trainers take an off the shelf training and modify it slightly for the existing company.  The training process was delivered without any of the nuances of the organization taken into consideration.  The 5s event was a success initially however the processes in place quickly feel apart.  Here is what the trainers didn’t consider:

  • There was no clear strategic vision for operations so as soon as demand increased the 5s process stopped
  • HR systems in place never found quality people to replace the natural turnover.  The people that were coming on board didn’t understand the new culture.
  • Bonuses were given on individual operational performances instead of incorporating items a 5s audit score.
  • The current processes that caused the mess in the first place weren’t addressed properly and started to show again soon after the event.
  • Leadership only cared about numbers and if the daily numbers slipped people were only focusing on the numbers.  Leadership also wasn’t as in tune with their work force and were not as interested in developing them and coaching them.  Their preferred method was to correct and/or work them out of the business.
  • The structure was silo based and a Lean transformation can overcome this issue.  In this case the silos were rewarded for being able to perform their work to the fullest.  The 5s effort required 3 different areas to coordinate and that cooperation fell shortly after the 5s event.

It’s critically to take into account all these systems when leading a Lean Transformation effort.


Related Blog Posts:

How Quickly Should You Roll Out a Lean Transformation

Why is Lean So Difficult Part I

Why is Lean so Difficult Part II – Strategy

Why is Lean So Difficult Part III – Momentum

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Daily Meetings

Why Lean Fails Webinar

Avoid being the 70% of companies that fail when they try to do Lean.  Register for a free 45 minute coaching session with one of our expert consultants! We will advise you on the cultural elements at play in your organization and how to address them properly. You’ll get tips on specific tools that will give you a higher ROI and be on the right path in no time.  The Lean Way has a 97% success rate with projects and we know how to get results.  Schedule a call now.
2024 The Lean Way Consulting. All Rights Reserved

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy