10 Ways To Blow Your Next Lean Event

A well-run event can be cathartic, exciting, and extremely effective. A poorly run one wastes a lot of people’s time, money, and at worst, vaporizes everyone’s motivation to support any future quality activities. In either case, you can be sure that people will spread the word about how it went.


In no particular order, here’s a list of sure-fire tactics:


1.Select a massive problem to work on – the bigger the better. It will give the team plenty to talk about, and you can assure management that you’re working on Very Big Important Problems.

2.Don’t worry about pre-work – Lean says do things just in time, so don’t waste time doing things in advance. You probably won’t use this information during the event anyway.

3.If you need to involve leadership, send them the powerpoint at the end – Leaders are Very Busy People – too busy to get involved with lean. That’s why they have you! If you need to involve them, write up a nice pitch of what you did and email it to them. If they have any questions or concerns, they’ll let you know.

4.Invite lots of quality people and few functional people – don’t involve anyone who can actually make a decision – the experts you need may all be too busy, and besides, they probably don’t know enough about Lean to contribute. They barely know all the proper lean Japanese words, let alone how to calculate Takt Time, set up Kanban replenishments or implement heijunka. Better leave that to the Lean experts.

5.Spend the entire time in a conference room – better yet, move off-site altogether – all you need is a long piece of paper, some post it notes, and a few people that know something about the process. Being away from the shop floor or the office keeps the distractions down.

6.Allow participants to attend to their day jobs during the event – multitasking, answering email, stepping out for phone calls and meetings, it’s ok. That’s why we make the event 5 days, to account for these interruptions.

7.Don’t bother collecting any data or measurements – Lean says to keep it simple. Data, statistics, spreadsheets just clutter the issue. Go with your gut.

8.Stay internally focused – think about how you can save the company money and do things faster and cheaper, with fewer people. Don’t worry about the customers – lean has nothing to do with them anyway.

9.Don’t have any facilitators – We’re all grownups, so we can manage ourselves to be productive. Especially in very large groups.

10.Make sure you have lots of action items – plan follow up meetings to track action items – if you’ve followed the other steps, you’ll naturally end up with a long list of actions that will take many weeks and months to complete.


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Using any of these tactics alone increases theodds of successfully blowing the event – don’t take chances, use as many as possible to guarantee a memorable outcome.

Comments 5

  1. Mark Ford

    Enjoyed your ’top 10’! I have had the unique pleasure of leading many Lean Six Sigma based projects working in the large corporate world, the mid-size entrepreneurial world, and now in the consulting world. Your list reminds me of how the larger corporate businesses approach Lean. Find a business owner that wants bottom-line results, and he/she will make sure all barriers to success are removed.
    I have a unique manner in which I typically find Lean consulting opportunities as well. They start in the product development lifecycle, which was outsourced to me as well. Then discussions begin, experiences shared, etc and many times, a lean project is born. In today’s economy, Lean is really needed!

  2. Michael Toomey

    Bingo…..vaporize is the operative word!! Each and every one of these on its own or in combination with another will do the trick…..and, unfortunately, one happens every day.

  3. Todd Brasel

    This really hits the mark! I’m going to keep this handy for my next Lean project.

  4. Traditional Al

    Can I be part of your company’s lean events? Hey…… wait a minute……..

  5. Pamela

    Great tips on leading Lean Six Sigma projects. But I think one of the critical factors for the success of a Lean Six Sigma project is the executive leadership’s engagement in the project. Any Six Sigma project has to have the consistent support and active involvement of the leadership if it is to succeed. Another reason for their involvement is to ensure that the Six Sigma strategy aligns seamlessly with the corporate plan.

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