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For Success with Lean, Culture is Key

For Success with Lean, Culture is Key

February 22, 2011

When it comes to lean, simply implementing a process may not be enough.

Rather, success in implementing lean is about culture. You have to create a lean culture for the lean processes to stick and be effective, according to lean expert Chuck Emery, founder of Lean Quest in the recent MDM Webcast, Lean for Distributors: Improve Process, Eliminate Waste.

"Often people think of a culture as the way people interact or some philosophy," Emery says. "But culture really is a pattern of assumptions that your group uses to solve its everyday problems."

The problem many companies run into is they begin the lean process with the tools others have used, tools that may not fit within the existing culture of their companies. "Lots of times they're met with mixed results ... They try to take a tool and apply it in the wrong environment," Emery says.

Instead, lean needs to start at the foundation of your culture: those beliefs and assumptions for how things need to be done, and the core principles that flow through every aspect of your business.

For example, just setting up kanban and expecting your employees to embrace the process change may have a small impact. But progress may stop there. Whereas if you start at the base and include everyone in the drive for continuous improvement, lean becomes a part of the culture.

"If you start with those pieces, and leadership puts those pieces in place, ... the norms and behaviors have purpose and meaning and are much more likely to be successful," Emery says.

Order the DVD: Lean for Distributors: Improve Process, Eliminate Waste

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