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Lean is Not Common Sense

How many times have you heard that lean is “just common sense?”  Over the years, I’ve noticed that those who say this are generally the ones who resist lean the most.  Referring to lean as nothing more than common sense is often an excuse to ignore transformation and continue to do things in the same way.

Depending on your frame of reference, common sense can tell you to:

  • build inventory to handle changes in demand or chronically late deliveries;
  • set individual goals for people (and tie closely to bonuses and performance reviews) in order to improve performance;
  • run large batches to deal with long setup times and continued stockouts;
  • reduce costs by pressuring suppliers to drop prices;
  • address problems by looking for solutions rather than countermeasures

Lean is a very different way of thinking for most people and requires significant transformation of individuals and the organization in order to be successful.  Before this transformation begins to occur, many aspects of lean thinking will actually appear counter to common sense.  Do not let anyone hide behind the “common sense” argument during the transformation.


About Gregg Stocker

Gregg Stocker is a lean advisor for Hess Corporation. He possesses over 20 years experience in a variety of disciplines including operations, manufacturing, human resources, quality, and strategic planning, and has worked in manufacturing, service, and oil & gas industries. He has extensive international experience, including successfully leading an $65 million business in The Netherlands. He authored the book, “Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline,” (Quality Press, 2006) and was a contributing author to "The Lean Handbook," (Quality Press, 2012). Gregg is a frequent speaker and recognized expert in business and performance improvement having been interviewed on television, radio, and in a number of newspaper and magazine articles including The New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek, and InformationWeek. Gregg has implemented change in organizations ranging in size from $10 million to more than $100 billion. He is a team-oriented leader who achieves results by improving teamwork, focus, and communication throughout the organization.


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