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Why Lean Methodology Fails: All Planning and No Execution
By Aaron Lalvani

Most people know how to plan a dream vacation. All the sights they want to see, the places to go, the restaurants, the shops, the nightlife. You map and plot it all out – mark the special spots and connect them in the most efficient way. You figure out how to have a great vacation because you planned it with the added benefit of saving a lot money doing it that way. So exciting, so much anticipation -and then… you stay at home.

Why would you do all that work without the reward? That is a question a lot of Business Intelligence experts ask after putting a company through an exhaustive implementation of lean methodology. When we say exhaustive, we mean exhausting. A good analysis process is going to start with:

  1. An assessment of processes, methods and people.
  2. Data will be generated.

  3. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) created.

  4. Efficiencies discovered.

  5. Strategies developed to implement those efficiencies.

That is what a good assessment should look like.

Planning requires commitment

But assessments are only assessments. The real benefits occur when you implement. It’s like that dream vacation you planned- you’re not going to have a good time unless you go. And yet so many implementation plans for lean manufacturing, lean production, or lean supply chain, to name a few, sit and gather dust in the office of the executive(s) that commissioned them.

Absolutely perplexing! Executives have all the proof they need to implement because quantifiable financial benefits are documented in a lean management analysis. Notice the word documented – these benefits are not anecdotal like “Oh you might do better doing this”. A good lean management analysis documents and illustrates demonstrable savings that accrue to the bottom line. All the way down to details like savings that might occur weekly, monthly, yearly, or by product line or division – but definite, factual, savings.

Why do we resist change?

Now, you’re saying “Oh come on now – documented savings that weren’t instituted? You’re making this up – that’s unbelievable!” And you’re right – it is unbelievable. But it turns out that the biggest hurdle to developing a lean culture that looks constantly for efficiency, to reduce waste and make savings as important as sales – is the current “no action” culture you are trying to change.

Let’s go back to our unused map for a moment. Whether you planned a vacation – or you’re part of a logistics and supply chain management optimization process – your map is crucial.

It tells you where you are going and when. But there is one part of the map that you need to force yourself to look at – the bad spots. The spots you don’t want to go to. The places that have to be replaced.

A good lean methodolgy process speaks to owners/ executives about the parts of their business they may already know about and not want to talk about. Maybe that is why so many assessments are shelved – it scares weak management because they forget the reason for the cost reduction strategy when they react that way. A good analysis of operations will not only show the bad parts – it will provide a smooth trip to an exciting new destination, where things work better, people are happier and there’s a bigger bottom line.

Change is good

So how do you get to the point where you have your map and you’re ready to go?

  • Think about how good it is going to be when you get there.
  • Think of all the good reasons for going.

  • The increased productivity.

  • Think about a satisfied workforce and happier customers.

  • Think of the competitive edge you’re gaining.

Now, communicate that feeling to everyone in your business. Make them feel things are going to be better, make everyone part of the process, so they are motivated to make it happen. Don’t be afraid to change – embrace it and bring everyone along with you. Now, your map is worth something – because you’re taking it and doing something with it instead of staying at home.

Aaron Lalvani is the founder of Lalvani Group, a consulting service company for supply chain procurement optimization, lean consulting, cost reduction strategies, logistics consulting, and inventory reduction. Visit Lalvani Group at

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