Lean Culture or Lip Service?

Take this self-assessment to help determine the lean status of your organization

Ryan E. Day

February 5, 2020

Lean looks at ways to reduce waste and improve flow. The principles are relevant to virtually every organizational sector and vertical. It’s no surprise, then, that so many organizations tout lean and devote resources to lean initiatives. But, too often, there is a tendency for a company to promote lean initiatives before it has really developed a lean culture. How about yours? Is it truly striving for a lean culture, or just paying lip service?

A lean culture is born when progress is made within four separate dimensions: cultural enablers, enterprise alignment, customer-focused results, and continuous improvement. If you’re not sure where your company stands on the lean continuum, walk through the following exercise and see what you discover.

Read the statements below each category and assess how frequently your organization exhibits these characteristics and behaviors. Respond to the statements with something along the lines of: almost always; sometimes; rarely; and almost never.

Cultural enablers are principles and behaviors that help employees engage in an organization’s lean journey, make progress in their understanding, and ultimately build a culture of enterprise excellence.
• People throughout my agency treat others, including co-workers and customers, with respect and dignity.
• Leaders at all levels of my agency talk about the “big picture” of what we want to accomplish and inspire others to join in that vision.
• Leaders at all levels of my agency listen to diverse points of view, enable people to act, and support the decisions others make.
• Leaders at all levels of my agency praise team members for a job well-done and show appreciation for people’s contributions.

Enterprise alignment is a where there is a companywide understanding of the organization’s goals and strategies, as well as an ongoing process to keep the elements of the organization aligned with them.
• People throughout my agency work across team, departmental, and organizational boundaries to meet the needs of our customers and stakeholders.
• People throughout my agency clearly understand how their daily work contributes to achieving the agency’s strategic objectives.
• My agency uses data (e.g., scorecards, dashboards, visual management) to measure performance against what is important.
• People throughout my agency demonstrate what they know and understand, and are committed to our organization’s vision, mission, and values.

Customer focus is the philosophy of prioritizing your customer’s point of view within your organization’s delivery of services and/or products, as well as being the main driver in management decisions and business development.
• The customers of my agency are highly satisfied.
• My agency makes it easy for customers to work with us.
• My agency uses direct feedback from our customers to improve the products and services we provide.
• People throughout my agency have a clear understanding of what our customers and stakeholders expect and/or require from us.

Continuous improvement is the method of continually identifying and implementing strategies for improving an organization’s processes and overall effectiveness.
• My agency implements changes effectively.
• In my agency the people who “do the work” are the ones empowered to “improve the work.”
• When problems occur, people throughout my agency focus on fixing the process vs. blaming the individuals involved.
• Selected improvement efforts in my agency are focused on strategically relevant issues.

Lean culture survey assessment

So, how did it go? You should now have a better idea of where you are vs. where you want to be. Were you surprised by which dimensions have the lowest and highest rankings? Now it’s time to prioritize the areas that need the most attention and devise plans to address them.

About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20-lb tabby cat at his side.