Articles: Lean’s Clear Essence

The Distilled Essence of Lean is Worth One More Close Look

The foundations of Lean Thinking (the Toyota Production System) were poured in 1914.  The wisdom of Lean Thinking has accelerated over the last 25 years since its ‘rebirth’ in 1990 with the arrival of Jim Womack and Dan Jones’ book Lean Thinking which went viral.  And it continues to become part of the infrastructure that is building tomorrow.  But what qualifies it as a ‘wisdom for the world’, is that it is now proven and applied in every field of human endeavor from healthcare to mining and from manufacturing to government.  Everywhere!

In the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers”.   You may feel, as many do, that we are drowning in knowledge of all kinds.  And for the moment, let’s not consider the incredible damage to wisdom that has been done by the deliberate and systematic distribution of carefully crafted fake knowledge across our society to a trusting and unsuspecting population.  Both young and old relied on the stained knowledge that Facebook, Cable News and so many other sources provided to people – who in turn – used it to build their knowledge bases to ultimately form their future perceptions.  These perceptions will shape their characters that will affect their patterns of behaviour.

Wisdom grows, over time, from the constant checks, critiques, and experiments with the knowledge that spawns it.  Eventually it enables us to filter out ‘false truths’ from the distortions and lies presented as truths.  Lean’s twenty-five years is not a long time, but with constant testing, assessment, questioning, learning and self-reflection, wisdom grows.

To face the future, we need authentic leaders at all levels whose makes them comfortable in their skins,  And, whose thinking, beliefs and actions influence those around them to understand them and their values & beliefs that makes it clear where they are ‘coming from’. This is essential going forward, so folks can focus on the important innovation stuff we need to compete and win.  Global competitiveness demands the best we have.  And that means building environments based on respect and trust where no one hesitates or holds back support because of an uncertainty about where their leader is ‘coming from’.  But back to the essence of the lean wisdom after 25 years of evolution…

The Essence of Lean Wisdom

Look carefully at the following key diagram taken from the new book The Lean Strategy, on page 113 to be exact.  Think about every element and ask yourself “Do I buy what this element is saying?  And does it resonate perfectly with my understanding of Lean?”  Without reservation??   The distilling of the very essence of Lean means grasping its principles, its truths – and its wisdom.  Once convinced, you are ready to climb upon its shoulders and forcefully march forward.  Keep in mind that we owe those wise folk who introduced us to lean in Lean Thinking in 1990.

This illustration is powerful and appears on page 113 in chapter 4, – Framing for Learning.   This was put together by four of the top Lean leaders and Lean transformation-makers in the world.  They have compiled, added to, and postulated solutions from what has been collectively gleaned over a quarter century from millions of experiments & pieces of knowledge – all about Lean Thinking and the 5 principles of Lean.   It’s documented it their new book The Lean Strategy, which was a highly recommended ATJ’s Good Reeds  in Blog #4.

Jim Womack puts it this way, “This important book [The Lean Strategy] goes beyond teaching the Lean tools that have been embraced today, and reveals the complete – and revolutionary – Lean strategy”.    To reach this level of wisdom, countless people have worked together to drive out false and distorted knowledge and there will always be more of that to do.  But at least, we can stand in confidence with those who have assembled the wisdom in this book.  I have no hesitation to endorse its claim that this book is about: “Using Lean to create competitive advantage, unleash innovation, and deliver sustainable growth”.