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The trouble with Lean

Are you Lean, becoming Lean, doing Lean or thinking Lean?

Almost the entire province of Saskatchewan has gone Lean.

On the surface Lean offers everything front line workers should want. It is a system that addresses work process and reduces waste. It looks at the appropriate use of tools, including us humans. It allows for continual process improvement with a focus on quality. It involves and values front line workers in process design. Some managers claim it even saves money that can be reallocated elsewhere.

So why is it we hate it so much?

Lean is a system of continuous process improvement that originated at Japan’s Toyota in the 1930s (sometimes misidentified as the Toyota Productions System – TPS), although founder Taiichi Ohno admits that he generously ripped off Henry Ford for many of his process ideas. Others say the origins go back thousands of years to Africa. The term Lean itself came from a 1988 article on Toyota’s management system by an MIT student.

While initially geared to assembly line manufacturing, Lean has expanded in recent years to include the service sector.

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