Floor Tape Store

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lean Is About More than the Myths

It is important when you are starting out your lean journey to understand what Lean is really about. Steve Cook, a former Dell Computer supply chain executive and newly appointed chief operating officer of MFG.com recently took time to explain three common myths about Lean.

Myth #1: Lean = Job Cuts

"If done well, Lean initiatives are less a cost-cutting exercise and more a growth exercise," said Cook.

Myth #2: Lean = Doing More with Less

Lean is about doing more to get more, knowing that reducing waste is a growth strategy, a way to help the company be more competitive, Cook said.

Myth #3: Lean = a Cost Reduction Strategy

While Lean initiatives clearly involve reducing costs, "it's a myth if it's the reason why you're doing Lean," emphasized Cook. "The underpinning of Lean must be about making the organization more successful."

Lean is really a systematic way to learn to see the inefficiencies in your processes and to solve these opportunities in such a way to grow the business profitably by adding value the customer will pay for. If you want to be a successful company you will learn to empower and engage the entire organization to focus improvement on value-added work from the customer’s perspective.

Cook added a saying from Dell which reflects this, “You’ll get beat up for high cost, but you’ll get fired for quality/availability issues.”

Is your organization solving problems only for themselves or are they solving those for their customers?


  1. Great article Tim. I actually worked with Steve back in a previous life and I think he hit it on the head with the myths! The challenge is that lots of people are drawn to lean because of the "head count reduction" and the "doing more with less" type approach. The myths need to be dispelled emphatically right from the start.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Always good to see what Steve is saying, he's a smart guy.

    On the points, lean certainly should not equal job cuts. Mark Graban and I talked about that during his podcast #10 (http://www.leanblog.org/2006/11/leanblog-podcast-10-jamie-flinchbaugh_21.html) that waste equals layoffs. A wasteful company has no choice but to lay people off because they have essentially run out of ideas. That of course is what lean should be about. As the labor mouthpiece blog Labor Notes points out, lean isn't always about respect for people. Many organizations implement poorly or worse yet, hide bad things under the guise of lean because it sounds better. Mark Graban and others sound off on this write up here (http://www.leanblog.org/2009/11/leanies-of-world-unite.html).

    I recently have been talking more about this "doing more with less" and that companies / people are too focused on the "with less" part. They aren't thinking about the more. Steve points this out. I talked about it here (http://jamieflinchbaugh.com/2009/11/doing-more-with-less/).

    Jamie Flinchbaugh