Lean transformation: should we teach values upfront ?






Rev. 27/07/2019

To fully understand this article, leaders must remember all those times when what is done is different from what is said, despite all good intentions.

If I am right, at a certain point of a sustainable lean journey, values (and principles) – the why’s for the systems work – should be incorporated by leaders, managers and workers. At that time. leaders would have already practiced the values through their way of managing and teaching by doing.

Concerning lean transformation, I believe there is a set of values necessary and sufficient to make it happen. First, let us assume that lean transformation is for the ones who really are commited to change and  changing is necessary to continuous improvement.

Most of the “tool learners” wants a sort of push-button solutions (why’s matter less than how’s). “Value learners” can be pushed (or pull themselves)  further instead of struggling against disbelief of beginners or tool-focused experts.

True leaders would be looking forward to understanding what values should be in place to make lean sustainable. If someone proposes the following lean VALUES to lean leaders, they will ask a lot of why’s and will experiment to build them. Or will have a leap of faith and do it.


I hope to explore the meaning of each one of the lean values in the next articles to explore the causality of those values to sustainable lean systems. And show the  relation that value has to each other, in a certain manner that one reinforce other.

The  first to be explained is CONSCIOUSNESS. It means awareness about failures, errors and mistakes.  Handling with these flaws is the core of learning process and continuous improvement (kaizen).

Without CONSCIOUSNESS in place, people won´t be able to detect and correct errors, and therefore, will not learn, and in long term, there will be no continuous improvement.

I assume there is a specific set of values necessary and sufficient to build lean systems upon. It is not a math question. There is no right answer. But we can assume that this is the major barrrier to a lean system: being conscious of self mistakes and expose them doesn’t pay the benefits for managers.


Even if someone recognizes that values drive attitudes and attitudes drive behaviours and behaviours account for results, as far as I know, this one will not practice these values by oneself. Outside support is needed to deal with the embarassing gap between what are said to be the values someone holds and the values really practiced on daily basis. I mean the gap between what is said and what is not really done. A skillful outsider will help to close the gap. Most of the well-known advices like get commitmentbe humblemake problems visible – or, in others words, show publicly your mistakes – and be courageous are flawed (how can we really teach someone not to fear?).

True commitment, courage and humility come from practice, come up with some outside support and much of  inner change.

So, how to change? With commitment to improve, as initial requirement, a skillful coach can seed the ground for kaizen and learning. Such skillfulness – barely known – is not trivial.

More important is to take the first step. More importante is what could emerge from a workshop about values and the values to be practiced: a new consciousness about mistakes and about learning would rise and, perhaps, a new practice would be deployed by the leaders.

And if there is a critical number of leaders, enough to make things change for long enough, they will know how to adjust the route towards lean system. I dare to say that will be problably hard to find many top executives to deeply discuss and practice lean values.


If a lean initiatives appear to be ineffective, try something differentTo some degree the ‘stry-something-different’ mindset  driven Toyota towards excellence or not, even before knowing why’s?


If you have read to here, you might be interested in a Lean Leadership Workshophttps://www.prolean.com.br/capacitacoes ].


This article comes from my answer to a discussion about knowing why before knowing how [http://michelbaudin.com/2017/07/25/should-you-know-why-before-you-know-how/#comment-29828 ] in Michel Baudin’s blog [July, 25th, 2017] and from Art Byrne [The Lean Turnaround Action Guide: How to Implement Lean, Create Value and Grow Your People, book and workshop on june, 12th, 2019]


Original title: Should you show principles upfront ?

Reference: [Change: a novel about lean transformation, pp.130-132, 279]. Mudança: uma crônica sobre transformação e logística lean. Porto Alegre: Ed. Bookman, 2013, pp.130-132, 279.

#kaizen #prolean #leantransformation #leanlogistics #leanleadearship #organizationalchange

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