Maintaining lean: whatever you do, never ever give up

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Maintaining Lean is often easier said than done. Pressures on teams from other sources, a lack of employee engagement and sometimes a few quick wins and early results can lead to apathy. The important thing when it comes to Lean is never, ever give up.

As Manufacturing Growth Director, Steve helps businesses to compete, innovate and grow providing advice and support on new product development, intellectual property protection and production process optimisation. His broad career includes MD of £75M multi-site, European medium volume manufacturing company, Director of global sourcing in a $12B US corporation, MD of an off-shore engineering company in India and design and engineering leadership in sectors spanning aircraft to lawn-mowers. He has a PhD and MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design, Cranfield, BSc Aircraft Engineering, Salford and is a Six Sigma Green Belt.

We have talked often in this Latest Thinking section of the website about the challenges that come with keeping people engaged and involved in change.  No matter where you work and what you do, most of us would prefer that things stay the same rather than change. Change is intimidating and a bit frightening.  A successful Lean implementation requires change and for everyone in the company to embrace and be part of that change.

I was recently watching this TED video from Diana Nyad.  Diana isn’t a household name, but she’s achieved a great deal.  She’s the first person to swim the 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage.  She achieved this at the fifth attempt at the age of 63.  You can watch the video here:

Listening to her talk I was aware of how her story could be applied to Lean implementers.  Diana had a dream, something calling her to keep trying and doing more.  She had to accept the knock backs and disappointments and move on from failures.  At each attempt she became more determined and focused until finally, she achieved her dream. 

In my work with businesses, I often come across people who are feeling like Diana must have when she stood on the Cuban shore, knowing the scale of the task in front of her.  I see how they have to deal with failures and disappointments and how some bounce back while others founder. 

It’s too easy to see yourself as a lone protagonist, taking the weight of organisational change on your shoulders.  The smart implementers, the successful implementers build a team around them.  People who are experts but also share a goal.  They work with the challenge and see the goal on the horizon.  They use the tools available, they set a goal and they never, ever give up.

The most successful implementers I have worked with keep their own knowledge moving forward, using training courses like our Lean Tools Refresher to stay topped up.  Courses like Lean Academy will show you how to build a team around you and most importantly, maintain momentum.

As Diana reminds us in her talk, Socrates said that “To be is to do” – you can’t just tell people that you’re a lean implementer, you have to implement Lean.  You have to believe that it’s the right thing for your company and colleagues and you must never, ever stop trying.


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