Beyond Lean – To Where?

I recently came across a seminar advertised as “Beyond Lean – Optimizing Factory Performance.”  The synopsis mentions learning about “Lean-Plus” and moving “…beyond conventional Lean Manufacturing.” Huh?

Not taking anything away from the content that will be presented – I am sure it is top notch, but why do we continually feel the need to rename/rebrand/reimage concepts and ideas that we haven’t mastered to begin with?  I suppose it relates to the desire to always have the latest toy or concept.

Just when Lean is starting to gain traction in industries outside of manufacturing, like healthcare, we feel the need to now say Lean is stale, and we need to move “beyond Lean.”  To where?  Remember, Lean is based on continuous improvement and it is much more evolutionary then revolutionary.  The concepts and tools of Lean continuously evolve and improve, but it’s still Lean.

We don’t need to move beyond Lean, we simply must continue to enhance and improve the body of knowledge that is Lean.  Trying to rebrand it and call it something different only confuses people, especially those in industries that are in the early stages of adoption.

And we wonder why skeptics continue to claim Lean is simply another “flavor of the month.”

We’re doing it to ourselves and we need to stop.

What do you think?


6 thoughts on “Beyond Lean – To Where?

  1. With any of these approaches (Deming, Lean, RCA, Six Sigma, etc.) the key is implementation and management support. When these things are failing, the results don’t measure up, and the talk of moving “beyond” begins.

    • James,

      Exactly! Management support is critical to the success of improvement initiatives, partly because they don’t understand what they are getting themselves into – what it will really take to be successful with process improvement. I’ll be writing on this in the coming weeks. Thanks for your comments!


  2. You’re being too kind. These “lean plus our software = beyond lean” events and concepts are almost total crap. I don’t think there is any organization good enough to go “beyond lean.”

  3. Lean itself is a rebranding of Total Quality Management or Just in Time principles, depending on one’s emphasis. Some of the principles go back to Frank Gilbreth (1868-1924) and Henry Ford. It seems to be a common human desire to want to own the newest label or the newest brand. And it might help in marketing, or it might not. My experience, however, is that those who are offering the newest and the beyond have not mastered the basics.

    Of course any true professional should be emphasizing the basics, simply because if deeply understood and properly executed they are so powerful. And there is such a crushing need in the US to make quality a priority in all levels of industry, government and in our lives.

  4. How do you become cutting edge?

    The easiest way is to just declare that you already are.

    The new and improved, the latest and greatest, the next big thing – most of it is garbage. People that think we need the next great thing probably never understood how hard it is to do this right anyway. There is still much to learn. We have learned much, but we still don’t know the most efficient way to change a culture, the best way to sustain, and the best way to engage leaders, expand into the supply base, and so on. Many people will claim they have conquered all of these things, but the evidence is overwhelming that there is much left to learn.

    Let’s focus on the journey at hand, and not jump ship just yet.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh

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