What is “Lean Thinking?”

Welcome to The Lean Thinker.
Rather than put up an “under construction” page, I am just going to start typing.

So what is “lean thinking” anyway?
Of course it is the title of a well-known book.

To most people, the word “lean” when used in this context refers to the principles and practices of the Toyota Production System.

Toyota’s internal slogan is “Good Products, Good Thinking” and I think this reflects just how deeply thinking is embedded in the TPS.

My experience, however, is that most discussions of “lean manufacturing” focus on the tools and artifacts, the things you can see when you take the tour. This is understandable because it is fairly easy to make some quick gains simply by putting a few of the tools in place.

But I also see lots of five point checklists that try to determine “how lean” an operation actually is. Those checklists evaluate the implementation and use of the tools and artifacts. Sometimes, when they get to a level 4 or level 5 they start to address some of the ways people interact with the system.

They are missing the whole point. At “level 1” you will begin encountering problems. You might not even see them. But this is the point where it is necessary to begin introducing a different way of seeing problems, defining problems and dealing with them.

That is the only way true progress will be made up the scale. Start changing the thinking on day one.

2 Replies to “What is “Lean Thinking?””

  1. Yup – that’s me. Hi, Mike!
    For other readers from 1997-early 1999 I worked as one of the original two members of Boeing’s supplier support group, teaching kaizen to aerospace suppliers.

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