The Four Dimensions of Lean Culture™ is a highly effective framework for structuring holistic organizational change efforts. The model’s purpose is to provide a roadmap for building a healthier organization, where values and behaviors are aligned with the core principles of Lean Management, and where employees are engaged, customers are delighted and stakeholders are satisfied.
What Is Lean Culture, and Why Do We Want It?
There is a common belief that when an organization exhibits a high percentage of the characteristics shown in the table below, it can be described as “healthy,” “high-performing,” and “a great place to work.”
Characteristics of a Lean Culture
High levels of….
- Customers Satisfaction
- Employee Engagement
- Trust & Respect
- Collaboration & Teamwork
Low levels of…
- Turnover & Absenteeism
- Safety Incidents
- Internal Politics
- Departmental/Functional Silos
Yet in the world of organizational development and operational excellence, terms associated with “Lean improvement” and “Lean Culture” can have a wide variety of meanings and interpretations. Some people view Lean very positively and associate it with concepts such as effectiveness and efficiency. Even within the realm of positive opinions, the definition of what Lean includes vary greatly. Some see Lean as a complete management system, while others choose to define Lean more narrowly as a set of tools for conducting process improvement projects. On the other end of the spectrum, some people view Lean as a “flavor of the month” initiative designed only to cut costs. Some individuals at the farthest end of this spectrum think Lean is all about headcount reduction, referring to “LEAN” as an acronym for “Less Employee s Are Needed.” We expect that individual readers will fall in different positions along this spectrum.
Are any of these opinions “wrong?” After all, people define Lean largely by their personal experience, and it is true that organizations have applied Lean in a variety of ways. Given that all of these opinions have some level of merit, arguing about a “right” definition of Lean Culture is a futile effort. Instead, what is crucially important for any organization is that there is clear agreement on what Lean Culture means to you. Agreeing on a shared definition will enable everyone to speak a common language and work towards a common goal. We invite you to embrace the Four Dimensions model to as the foundation for your own common language.
Why Four Dimensions of Lean Culture?
- To Live Our Principles To Achieve Desired Outcomes
- Customers Matter to Us
- We Are Aligned With a Common Purpose
- We Can Always Do Better
- We Have Respect For All People
Why does your organization exist? If asked this question, would your leaders and employees all have a similar answer? Being clear about who you serve (your customer) and why can have an enormous impact on your business results. Study after study proves that when people are clear about their organization’s purpose, they are more engaged and more productive at work. They provide better customer service and the get passionate about improving the work they do.
Any group of people that wants to work together to achieve a shared objective needs to march in the same direction. This is true of any group of people, be it a sports team, an orchestra, a corporation or a government agency. People need to know where the group is going and every person needs to know what they are supposed to do to contribute to reaching the destination.
“We can always do better” is a powerful belief. When this philosophy is promoted across an organization, wonderful things can happen. Establishing a common language and common practice enables people throughout the organization to quickly and effectively come together – across departmental and/or functional lines – to work as teams on improvement efforts that help move the organization forward toward the achievement of the strategic vision.
Cohesive teamwork; effective leadership; meaningful relationships – These are the organizational characteristics that enable a healthy culture to thrive. Without strong connections between people, the long-term results of any alignment or improvement efforts will be modest at best. When organizations focus energy on cultural enablers, everything else they do just works better.