The Keystone of Lean?

key·stone/ˈkēˌstōn/.  Noun.  1) A central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together.  2) The central principle or part of a policy, system, etc., on which all else depends.

What is the keystone for a true lean organization?  Or at least an organization striving to transform itself on a foundation of continuous improvement and respect for individuals?

I think the keystone could be Genchi Genbutsu; aka gemba: the place where actual individuals and teams are doing the actual work.  If true, then we must not only strive but also actually ensure that we spend the majority of our time, as leaders, in gemba.  We must understand that practical experience is far more valuable than theoretical knowledge.  We must accept that we must see the problems in order to actually understand the problems.

Why gemba as the keystone?  It seems that regardless of your business, your customer’s experience and interaction with your company is in the gemba or closely connected to it.  Therefore all problems, all heroics, all profits, all losses have gemba at the root.  Seems to me that gemba is the central part of the system on which all else depends.

I welcome your thoughts on this one…


4 thoughts on “The Keystone of Lean?

  1. Like the message and reminder…..just had our company’s Medical Director meet with all my teams and experienced again the power of front line staff having an opportunity to share what they are proud of in their work, what problems they are experiencing and be able to ask and be heard by a top leader…I cannot convey the work people do in the same way that occurs when the leader is directly engaged with the staff.

    1. Susie, Thanks much for your reflections. I love your comment “I cannot convey the work people do in the same way that occurs when the leader is directly engaged with the staff” ! Well stated. – Karl

  2. Nicely done sir, perhaps transparency could be in there as well? Either way, go see is the message and I LIKE it!

    Hope 2013 off to good start…

    1. Daniel, Good add – without transparency, the gemba could end up being “just for show”. Thanks, Karl

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