Why Is LEAN So Hard To Implement?

I keep speaking about the requirement for leadership in order for LEAN to stick and be effective as a means to manage for quality. Why do most who attempt this find LEAN so hard to implement?

As Spear and Bowen noted in their Harvard Business Review article on the Toyota Production System - "Observers confuse the tools and practices they see on their plant visits with the system itself. That makes it impossible for them to resolve the apparent paradoxes of the system."

In other words, the process improvement tools and techniques, while important, are not the key for successfully transitioning from conventional manufacturing to LEAN manufacturing.  The key is the culture that supports and stimulates continuous growth and improvement.

That's where your role lies, in creating and reinforcing the cultural transformation that we began over 3 years ago now.

What is that culture?  Its best described in this quote from our next AJCP publication about the barcoded histology innovation in surgical pathology at Henry Ford Hospital that we created to reinforce LEAN work.

"The form of LEAN management that we practice is notable for changing the underlying leadership approach and culture of the laboratory worker to create a continuously learning, empowered workforce, making scientifically based rapid process improvements as a means of continually striving toward higher performance. We have embraced not only the Toyota Production System principles, but, more important, the rules of work, focused on standardization of tasks, defined connections between workers, and simplified process pathways. Therefore, our purpose in the HFPS environment is to continually examine our work, striving to achieve standardized tasks and workstations, conversion to defect-free, continuous "pull" process flow through smaller batches, a leveled workload, with just-in-time production and adoption of new technology that reinforces those principles. Moreover, the ongoing change decisions are made by an educated and empowered workforce in autonomous yet integrated work cells based on scientific study of their work."

Thanks for making it work.  I know its not easy, it requires effort, but look at the results!