Has Lean Expired?

If you understand and have followed the history of lean then you will already be aware of the different stages. Key contributors from Adam Smith* in the late 18th Century, Henry Ford, Deming, Ohno, Womack/Jones and more current thinking from John Seddon and Eric Ries have all added to the toolbox.

Through these ages structured improvement has had many titles and methods, TPM, TQM, Lean, Systems Thinking.  These are all approaches centred around developing high yield, low waste, quality centred improvement. The thing that really unites them all is that they require a structured and organisational set of thinking.

How we title that thinking will undoubtedly change in the future. I for one really look forward to developing and learning how to apply the next generation of thinking in this field, but I do so knowing that we’re standing on the shoulders of these giants that have added their thinking over the years.

So has ‘Lean’ been and gone. For me the answer is that it does not matter? Whatever we call the approach the core thinking remains the same. New techniques make these better, make the system easier to integrate and adopt but the thinking must continue. This is because organisations that want to improve dramatically must adopt this thinking to do so. This desire will always be there and there will always be businesses and institutions that want/need to be better.

So if you are a lean practitioner don’t feel you need to cling to the title, if you run a lean programme then don’t worry so much about what you call it. The real key is whether you are managing to get the thinking in place, because if the thinking is there then it can be called anything we want it to be.

*British readers can see he is featured on the reverse of the current £20 note.