There’s a great quote from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” that I was thinking of today, in relation to how we teach lean. Thecharacter Malvoliosays, “Be not afraid of greatness. Someare born great, someachieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

So, with apologies to Will…

“Some are born lean, some achieve lean, and some have lean thrust upon ’em.”

When our organization started to explore lean methods, we were informed that we would learn by doing. No classes! (That sure felt like having lean “thrust upon us” at the time.) The Toyota way is to teach lean as an integral part of the job, asthe tasks are learned. In our situation, since we weren’t “born lean,”our sensei taught us tools and concepts throughout the firstRapid Improvement Event. When we asked how we could learn to lead events ourselves, we were told that we would have to do hundreds ofevents before we could consider ourselves to be senseis.

Well, I confess – we didn’t listen. We incorporated lean concepts and tools into our classes and taught our leaders lean right along with Six Sigma. We even renamed our Green Belts as Lean Green Belts. We started running our own events and had many successes – some failures, but with overall effectiveness.

So although we weren’t born lean, we seem to have figured out how to work toward achieving lean.

The question that I’m pondering is, how do other organizations approach this issue? Do you teachlean concepts and tools to your employees in a classroom setting? Or do you espouse the “learn-by-doing” philosophy? I’m interested to find out what has worked for you.

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