Floor Tape Store

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Audience Answers: Burning Platforms?

I have been sharing thoughts for a while, now it is your turn.  I wan to hear your feedback on some questions that I have been pondering.

Many Lean transformations stories start with a burning platform. The term is used to describe an extremely urgent or compelling business situation in order to convey, in the strongest terms, the need for change. The crisis may already exist and just needs to be highlighted. Using this process, you can get people's attention and build awareness of the need for change very quickly. 

We have all heard of them. Typically is has to do with a company going out of business (poor financial results) if they don't improve.

So my question is this: Does a Lean Transformation need a "burning platform" to be successful?  And, what happens when the company improves and the burning platform is out, how do you keep the pressure on.

I'd like to hear your feedback and experience with burning platforms.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare


  1. I sincerely hope that none of us will ever find ourselves on a burning platform – but if you do, be sensitive and leave it as fast as you can!
    I think there are better metaphors. I used Kotter’s “melting iceberg” to some success. I think that a problem that is out of sight (under water) is quite typical for the start of a lean initiative.

    1. You are right - the Pinguins haven´t seen it at the beginning :-) But as most of the time, people and management tend to listen only if they see and feel the crysis

  2. Tim, great question and one that has gone unchallenged for quite some time. First the metaphor is really a lousy one. I was in the oil business and this metaphor was never used. In lean it was popularized by the book "lean thinking", as I recall. and they even went so far as to say, if there was not one, make it up. Well the metaphor is asking you to stay on the "burning platform of an oil rig" and die from the fire or jump 200 feet to your probably death into the ocean, maybe slower but probably death. Pretty grisly. At any rate, then what do you do after the crisis is over?
    I have found that the successful lean transformations are based on open honest dialogue, a true sense of transparency and dealing with the reality of the world around us. given the facts, most rank and file workers as well as most managers will come to the same conclusions. however, fear is truly one of the great motivators so the burning platform has a lot of proponents; and it is easy; just make it up. most things that are easy may give you short term gains, but seldom wear well in the fullness of time. plus most managers who use fear as a motivator have used it numerous times so now, when maybe they are really sincere about it, they have lost their credibility and everyone just sits back and wait to ride out the newest management fad.
    in short I think it will work, but only marginally and only short term and in the end you need open honest communications, transparency and dealing with reality. although those things are tougher, than their counterparts, since you will need them in the long run, just as well start now.