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A Lean Transformation Model Everyone Can Use

by Joshua Rapoza
January 23, 2014

A Lean Transformation Model Everyone Can Use

by Joshua Rapoza
January 23, 2014 | Comments (9)

Last week I had the good fortune to film John Shook explain LEI's Transformation Model. This is the model LEI coaches use to guide lean transformations with our partner companies, large and small, across a wide range of industries.

About a year or so ago our mission here at LEI changed from "Advance lean thinking throughout the world" to "Make things better through lean thinking and practice". I'm a huge fan of this change because so much of what we do here is about, quite simply, making things better. What better way to advance Lean than to show the difference it's made in the world for people, organizations, and businesses? I firmly believe LEI's Lean Transformation Model makes things better, whatever the industry. Or better yet, it helps people make things better for other people (employees and customers alike).

What I love about Shook's explanation of LEI's Transformation Model is that he makes it relatable without dumbing it down. Simplifying complex ideas is one of the hardest things to do.

In his recent e-letter Shook offers the same 5 key questions for transformation:

  1. What is the purpose of the change–what true north and value are we providing, or simply: What problem are we trying to solve?
  2. How are we improving the actual work?
  3. How are we building capability?
  4. What leadership behaviors and management systems are required to support this new way of working?
  5. What basic thinking, mindset, or assumptions comprise the existing culture, and are we driving this transformation?

Interestingly, these are all questions we asked ourselves at LEI when developing our new mission.

Here's a link to the e-letter by John Shook, and I highly recommend viewing the video below on the transformation model we use here at LEI. Its about 9 minutes long, so you may want to set aside some time to watch it, but it's something I suspect the lean community will be learning from and sharing with each other (and making their own?) for years to come.

John Shook explains the Lean Transformation Model

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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9 Comments | Post a Comment
fazal December 07, 2014
14 People AGREE with this comment
Most things have developed from theory to R&D to action. But the Toyota Production System(Renamed "Lean" in the US) has it's journey in the reverse. Lean Theory is emerging out of Toyota actions from the 1950s.

I think we are still bogged down in clarity to convey effectively and make people understand and go after "Lean" in their business processes without getting confused by the high sounding technical and management words, not quite comfortable to the people having a limited education and experince who are most often required to drive Lean on the floor

Can we make it very simple to understand and implement "Lean" for the people ?

The need was never more urgent than it is now to describe and present "LEAN" in a Lean way by eliminating waste of Technical and Management Jargon

I sincerely believe Lean can be effectively applied to every sphere of human endeavor, however I am yet to figure out how it can be made to enter a bedroom

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Peter Liepmann June 28, 2015
5 People AGREE with this comment

To Mark-
The other more common barrier is not being able to get permission from above to make any changes that aren't pushed from above.
Dilbert has it right- anyone who moves into management gets a lobotomy first...

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Jorge B. Wong July 24, 2015
3 People AGREE with this comment

The new LEI mission statement is more practical: Moving from foggy "advancing lean thinking" to "making things better". So it's better. This is consistent with gemba walks and going places where the work is done, where things are made or services are delivered.  

However, a "making things" mission may still be confusing. It is confusing for people who believe lean is about things, machines, products and processes ONLY. Thus, the frequent misconception surrounding "lean manufacturing", where many people within and w/o a business believe LEAN is something to be practice solely or chiefly by those in the factory, the store or the hospital ward. Throughout my 30 years of working in manufacturing, education, services and agriculture...I have seen most people think lean or continual improvement is a manufacturing or operations thing to do (becase there is were the most tangible and visible part of a value stream exists).

In addition, the new mission about “making things (better)” can help perpetuate the “lean for manufacturing” misconception, which continues to be used by many executives and business people as the number one excuse to avoid making strategy deployment better, product/service design better, business processes better, suppliers better and all involved people better, across the organization be it a retailer, hospital or school. Again, while much value added work (and muda) occurs in manufacturing or operations,  the largest and most serious gaps to deliver consistent value to the customer may not always be in the operations part of the business. Critical gaps and opportunities may be in a hospital HR group, a manufacturer’s sales force, in product/process engineering or in the corporate finance department. When lean thinkers and doers do not  exist among the C-officers, lean is a very precarious endeavor. And “quality is made in the board room” said W.E. Deming.

The roof of the house described by John Shook in the Lean Animation covers the whole value stream:  purpose, product/service, process, people, profit (cost/benefit). A clear and compelling mission statement should comprehend all the house and extensions, including suppliers and focus should be on ALL people (behavior/know how) and processes (how to).

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Tim Anderson July 24, 2017

Quality made in the boardroom!







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Nachiket Dani October 14, 2015
2 People AGREE with this comment

A great way to generalize process improvement to non-manfacturing verticals and non production environment but value added processes. These quality principles help me apply lean and process improvement tactics to quality, operations and service in IT industry.

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Lisa Grant August 02, 2016

Lean practices can be difficult to implement in certain organizations. My goal is to provide education and implementation of lean tools to every community in America. I coined the term LeanHOA and would like to publish a book soon. Please read my article and provide feedback. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/lean-me-lisa-grant

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Steve Trudell August 24, 2016
4 People AGREE with this comment

The Lean Sigma Stigma “those Lean guys are going to eliminate my job”

In my 35 years of manufacturing, and 15 years of Lean Sigma, I have found the most important focus has to be to Increase Market Share, not headcount reduction. In order to excite people and get them on board, we need to continuously remind them that these methodologies are to reduce the cost to build the product. What many failed Lean initiatives experience is the lack of savings being passed on to the customer, which makes them more competitive, and increases market share. If we fail to do this, then yes, we have reduced cost and increased our margin, but we have not grown the business, and we have sacrificed our employees to do it. I think that we all realize that our people are our most important asset.

If we are able to reduce our workforce by 20%, then our Sales Team should be focused on passing some of that savings on to the customer in order to increase our sales by 20%. The effect would be more sales, more profit, and a successfully sustained workforce and partnership. We must also have a robust, defined, and simple incentive program to share these gains with our associates to ensure that they see and benefit from the experience as well.  

Unfortunately, most companies try to implement Lean Sigma during crisis mode, and it’s too late. They are being forced to reduce cost in order to meet current market prices. You must get ahead of this through Market Intelligence and a solid forward looking business plan.  

Steve Trudell

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Jim Powers September 15, 2016

Excellent insight, Steve.  I am working now to introduce some lean concepts to a company that's growing, and it's very different than my previous ventures - hospitals already stuck in a crisis.  

The market share and growth angle have been very successful vehicles for me to generate interest in the corner office and attract champions to the cause of making things better.  


Jim Powers

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Michael Dugger September 12, 2017

Good insight, Steve!  I absolutely agree that profitable growth is the main focus (as do most LEAN leaders who ALSO have direct top/bottom line accountability for a P&L).  I am assuming this is what you meant by "most important focus has to be increasing market share", but "growing profitably" is probably a better fit for your main point.  

I don't agree that the common understanding today is just as negative and linked to job cuts as they were 20 years ago (when I first got exposed to lean as an assembly technician).  I think the misperceptions have been dramatically improved as the frequency of deploying lean has increased and become almost trendy and cliche- at least for manufacturers.   Having said that, I believe most have experienced failed first attempts and many "false starts".   The challenge is that although "Lean is simple, Lean is NOT easy".    It is also wildly effective when done correct.  I know this because I have inherited several businesses after failures and false starts and it sucks, but just takes longer to get the buy-in.  Most technical/industrial folks understand the fundamental intent of a lean manufacturing system is to continuously improve. In fact, we are so confident that lean deployment can benefit any company and any time, we based our partnershops on ROI, not lining our pockets like leeches racking up billable hours while delivering no real value and lots of 100 slide "dog and pony" shows  (thanks but no thanks "BIG 10", lol). Connecting the dots to "customer" and "value" and the  focus on eliminating waste is not always common knowledge, but at least the term "lean" doesnt carry the same threatening undertone to the workforce as it did before baby boomers started retiring.  

I would argue that LEAN is NOT viewed as an operational cost cutting or headcount program or methodology any longer.    in the general manufacturing environments that I have engaged over the last 7-8 years as an independent.  Im afraid that I have to call that an operational leadership version of a "wives tale".   I DO feel we need to be cognizant that the perceptions do still exist, but they are not the common perception any longer in manufacturing.  

Think about some of these cool facts:  

LEAN IS a growth strategy.  


LEAN IS top line revenue & customer focused.

LEAN IS a design approach & tool.    

LEAN IS innovation.    

LEAN = "SMART" as we have socialized the term  (SMART devices try to eliminate waste systemically based on our habits & values in modern processes like texting and driving)


LEAN aims to transform machine operators and assembly workers to Sales minded people.  I coach my students and partners to think and behave like a passionate, surviving business owner in how they run their element of the business, with a keen focus on driving improvement in their respective personal balanced score card of KPIs.

OH....AND When you add Six Sigma to this it only strengthens the point and the emphasis on driving the top line through innovation and discplined processes (customer + value + innovation etc).   I believe DFSS is the most valuable application of Six Sigma.  I agree that companies should never introduce Six sigma "in crisis mode", but Im not sure that "most companies try to..."?!?   I'd be interested in seeing the failure rate data if you have that.    Business 101 tells us to "stabilize the process" (fundamental business process control & focus on performance management infrastructure) prior to building "capability" or trying to improve any operational metrics.

"Getting ahead through market intelligence and a good business plan" is absolutely a first step-  BUT that is exactly why a solid Lean deployment starts with strategy deployment and market intelligence (voice of customer & benchnmarking best practices).    We offer workshops to kick off the linking of vision to a 5-year enterprise level strategy, AKA Hoshin Kanri-  an effective and integral part of LEAN:     "Hoshin Kanri" IS world-class strategic business planning and benchmarking (or researching & analyzing market intelligence) is rooted in lean best practice processes.   We are LEAN transformation experts, and I'd dare say our business planning and market intelligence services are some of our best practices we implement, so I dont agree that these business elements are somehow exclusive to or not included within LEAN, but rather represent critical foundations that are completed very early in our client engagements.

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