Systems Thinking – Lean…It’s a Journey

If you’re familiar with the world of Lean, then you’ve probably heard the expression “it’s a journey.” This expression has become a little trivial or trite. It’s become a little hollowed out, sort of like the term empowerment or win-win. I have a colleague who hates the expression win-win. He hates it because it is always used as a mask when he finds himself in a win-lose situation. But Lean really is a journey and I want to articulate the elements of that journey for you today.

First, you need to define your starting point, like a journey. Then you define a destination or where you want to go. Finally you have a rate of progress towards your destination. So, if you’re traveling from New York to California, you have your starting point in NY and your destination in CA. You have your rate of progress that includes intermediate states. You might stop in PA and visit some friends. You might only have enough money to get to IN. If that’s the case then you’ll need to stop and make some money for a little while before you pack up and continue west as far as you can go. California represents the ideal state and you have some intermediary states along the way.

In the world of Lean you define the current state, you consider your ideal state, you understand your limits, you identify targeted improvement states — way stations along the way, you go there and reach a steady state, then you prepare the next move on your continuous journey when the time is right. And that’s how Lean is represented as a journey.


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