10 Common Lean Lies

Some lies you can see a mile away. The check is in the mail. Your table will be ready in a few minutes. I didn’t say that. This won’t hurt a bit…

Add to this rather long list some lies of the lean variety. I’ve heard more than my fair share.

Often, I just shake off the falsehoods and chalk it up hopefully to a case of the utterer not knowing what they don’t know. This means that the “lies” are not truly a conscious effort to deceive. Of course, this would mean that they’re really not lies, but then a post about common ignorant lean statements doesn’t seem quite as snappy.

In any event, effective leadership requires both credibility and competency. The following “lean lies,” and so many others, undermine both characteristics.

  1. This situation is totally abnormal, I’ve never see this before. Translation – dear Mr. or Mrs. Observer, do not believe your eyes…please, oh please.
  2. We will dedicate resources to the kaizen promotion office. The unsaid caveat – yup, 100% dedicated...when they’re not working on other stuff.
  3. We were lean years ago, then we experienced some turnover in key positions…moved from one facility to another (I'm not making this up), etc. What they should readily admit – we may have had a few lean tools in place, but the systems and principles weren’t even an inch deep. We were never truly lean, just fake lean.
  4. I’ll be there for the ENTIRE kaizen event. The invisible exception clause – I’ll be a full-time participant, except when I have a meeting or an important phone call, someone outside of the event seeks my attention, or whenever it is apparent that I’ll have to roll-up my sleeves.
  5. I have a lot of lean experience. The all too frequent reality – I have a number of unread lean books in my bookcase, got abelt” or two, and I’ve participated in several kaizen events…how hard can this be?
  6. We applied the proper rigor. The intended meaning - there is no need to investigate what constitutes our limited effort to understand the current situation. Are direct observation and data necessary for really smart people?
  7. Our employees are our most important asset. Well, first of all, people are NOT assets… although they can/should appreciate in value (while assets typically depreciate). Second of all, you don’t value anyone enough to boldly promise that no one will lose their job as a result of productivity improvements. Rather, you’ll chop heads at the first opportunity and crow how you "leaned-out" the organization.
  8. Senior leadership is committed to lean. The fine print – until we must truly change our own behavior.
  9. We will practice line stop jidoka. Expiration date clause - yes, line stop, until we start missing production time and my standard direct labor dollar metric looks like it will suffer.
  10. Everyone was fully trained in _______. The Clintonesque mental reservation - of course, it depends what your definition of "fully" is.

What are some of the lean “doozies” that you have encountered?

Related posts: Time Observations – without Rigor, It’s Just Industrial Tourism, Show Your Work, Humility, or What Does Dirt Have to Do with Lean?

There are 6 Comments

Christian Paulsen's picture


You hit the nail on the head. Another one: Yes, I'm on the team....until the team is doing something I don't want to do. Then I'm support and this task is for the operators on the team.


markrhamel's picture


Thanks for the comment and thanks for sharing yet another lean lie. I've encountered the unsupportive support switcheroo thing. It's definitely a morale killer.

Best regards,

Janet Hale's picture

Funny! How about this one: "I can delegate this Lean stuff, right?" ;)

markrhamel's picture


Thanks for the comment! That might not be a "lie," but it definitely fits in the "doozie" category.

Best regards,

Sam Hoskins's picture

"We have trained 25% of our workforce in Lean. They will be called upon to support our C.I. team's black belt projects. We value their input."

BTW, the C.I. BB team received 1/2 day of lean training. The workforce received 1/2 day of six sigma training.

Is there a disconnect here?

markrhamel's picture

Hi Sam,

Thanks for the comment!

That's a good one...as far as lean lies go. Were their lips moving when they made that proclamation?

I know, with my feeble mind, that a mere 1/2 day of training will only make me more dangerous.

Best regards,