In Mike Wroblewski’s capstone, to his posts on his tour of lean manufacturing in Japan, he states:
The lean principles are helping us develop and promote harmony by removing barriers, rocks, and conflicts that disrupt flow in our business.
Yes, lean is about eliminating waste and using great lean tools to improve our business but that is all we seem to focus on in the US. Lean principles are much more than that.
He captures the difficulty of truly operating in a lean manner. The tools are useful, but they are not the end. Just using the tools can help move an organization to the point where they are ready to truly examine how to improve. Most often the attempts (just like previous attempts with quality management, six sigma… did) stop short of more than superficial change where a few new tools are used in the same old system. Luckily more an more organization are moving in the right direction.
Still, few have reached a point where their organization can be called lean, rather than a regular organization using some lean tools. The great lean manufacturing blogs (and other management improvement blogs) improve the odds for more companies making the transition.
Related: Japan Kaikaku Experience – Lean Leaders – Curious Cat Management Improvement Glossary – Online lean manufacturing resource – Deming and Six Sigma – Has Six Sigma been a failure? – Quality Technology and Innovation