The Correct Way to Implement Lean [Part-1]

Corporate culture

This is a guest contribution from Zakir Husain.

A large survey conducted by Industry Week magazine and found that only 2 percent of companies that have a lean program achieved their anticipated results.

More recently, the Shingo Prize committee, which gives awards for excellence in lean manufacturing,
went back to past winners and found that many had not sustained their progress after winning the award.

The award criteria were subsequently changed.

Why is the pursuit of excellence through lean so difficult?


As per my understanding, biggest cause is that management doesn't understand the basic fact that LEAN is a thinking system that includes tools not a system of tools.

Implementing these tools in a factory without specific just-in-time purpose is a common form of “lean implementation. Toyota has developed these tools to meet their requirements, not every factory's requirements. These tools were developed for the automobile industry, not for every industry. Copy-paste is the main reason for failure.

Lean is a process of learning and improving continuously, most companies fails because they quit learning and return to the previous stage (their comfort zone) where they were before doing lean.

The company doesn't need to 'DO' lean, they need to 'BECOME' lean.

To BECOME lean organization needs to change its ‘Corporate Culture’ first, then improve (or change if required) its working system.

What is culture?

  • The way things are done by the people
  • Culture refers to behavior patterns that people express during any decision making and implementation of decision
Culture and People: Culture is simply behavior that is:
  • Supported
  • Expected
  • Reinforced & 
  • Valued by a group of people over a long period of time 
Elements of Behavior: Four elements of behavior
  • Action
  • Thought 
  • Emotion 
  • Physiological changes 

What is Corporate Culture?


Corporate Culture is the amalgam of shared values, beliefs, attitudes, behavior patterns, the customary way of thinking and conduction the business.

Corporate culture is social energy that drives (or fails to drive) the organization towards its vision and goals.

Corporate culture is more than its products and services, it differentiates it from other organizations.

Characteristics of Corporate Culture

  • Culture is rooted in traditions of the organization
  • Culture is shared by the people 
  • Culture is learned by the individuals 
  • Culture is trans-generational 
  • Culture is cumulative 
Functions of Corporate Culture
  • Creates unique identity
  • Generates commitment to a common objective
  • Develops sense of pride to be a member of the organization 
  • Social binder to keep people together 
  • Control mechanism to guide attitudes and behaviors of employees
Elements of Corporate Culture
  • Shared values – vision, mission, goals
  • Emotion for participation – mindset, attitude, behavior 
  • Knowledge and wisdom – knowledge, skills, training, experience
  • Management proves – path finding, decision making, implementation 
  • Structure – organizational structure, business processes 
  • Systems & - reward & recognition, information management, learning, communication, business management 
  • Leadership – all above elements 
Also read: Building right culture in the workplace

When to change the corporate culture?

As the needs and expectations of customer’s changes, quality of products and services of the competitors improve, market forces of national and international trade realign the social and economic policies of governments changes, the mood of people changes. The excellent companies, those who want to attain and constantly retain their market leadership, renovate reform, revamp - in short changes their corporate culture.

Read: The correct way to implement lean (Part-2) and The correct way to implement lean (Part-3)

About the author:
Zakir is an industrial engineer and a lean practitioner. He worked as a project manager in lean implementation projects. He has successfully implemented the online finishing system in an apparel manufacturing company. Currently, he is working at Richa & company and doing projects on improving sampling and pre-production activities to maximize PCD hit rate.

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