Monday, October 22, 2012

Lean is a Marathon, not a Sprint

By Al Norval

I often use the phrase a Lean transformation is more like a marathon than a sprint. Why? It takes staying power and commitment. Many times I see organizations begin a Lean journey but after a year or so start to lose interest. There are several reasons for this including:
  • We’re not seeing the benefits
  • It’s too hard
  • I don’t want to change

As a result these organizations move onto something else. The next big thing. They get addicted to the cycle of the shiny new toy – they’ve got to have the latest and greatest but once they do it begins to tarnish and they move on. It’s no wonder their employees get disillusioned and accuse them of bringing in programs which are the flavor of the month.

Lean is about people and about changing the culture of an organization. People and culture don’t change overnight. It takes time to change a culture. Culture can be defined as: “The accumulated shared learning and experience of the organization that sets the norms for daily behavior.”

It takes time to change the shared experiences of an organization and turn them into behavior changes. So to change a culture takes staying power.

I came across this quote from Lou Holtz that sums it up very well:

“If you don’t make a total commitment to whatever you’re doing, then you start looking to bail out the first time the boat starts leaking. It’s tough enough getting that boat to shore with everybody rowing, let alone when a guy stands up and starts putting his life jacket on”

Lou Holz

Marathons take commitment both to training and to the run itself.

A Lean transformation takes commitment. In both cases there will be many reasons to stop. The best organizations overcome these obstacles and keep going.


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