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Success With Lean? Not Without Patience

It’s no secret that virtually all lean deployments fail to achieve intended results. One of the main reasons for this is a lack of patience in the time and effort required for transformation.  Success with lean requires a long term commitment to learning, consistent focus, and patience.  If the company’s leaders are not in it for the long-haul, it’s probably best not to start the journey.

The Cambridge Dictionary of American English defines patience as the ability to accept delay, suffering, or annoyance without complaining or becoming angry.  When applied to business business, patience refers to the ability to accept delays, setbacks, and periods of doubt without abandoning a chosen direction.  Although there will be benefits along the way that will make many people feel good about progress, there will also be bumps in the road that will make some question whether lean is worth the effort.

Make no mistake that a company will never be “lean.” The best you can hope for is to get to the point where continual learning and improvement become so engrained in the culture that lean thinking does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary.  There will always be a need for coaches and commitment to maintaining – even staunchly protecting – the culture because the natural tendency for things to return to the “old way” will never go away.

It may seem strange that the road to continual and rapid improvement requires patience but it’s true.  And unfortunately, patience is one characteristic that is sorely missing in Western business.


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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