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The Lean Lifestyle, Personally and Professionally
The Lean Lifestyle, Personally and Professionally

I was meeting with the HR leaders in a new client recently, and they pointed out that there are a lot of similarities to the Lean lifestyle, whether in your personal life or in your work as a leader. I was impressed by their insight.

They pointed out that whether you are trying to lose weight, or trying to transform your organization to a Lean management system and culture, there are a lot of similarities:

  • Both are hard to get started, it takes time to see significant change
  • Both require changing deeply ingrained habits – diet and exercise to lose weight, changes what you do and how you do it in leadership
  • Both require preparation to succeed – if you don’t understand the basics of diet and exercise, or of A3 thinking, daily management, value streams, and strategy deployment – you are at high risk of failure
  • Once the Lean lifestyle change is well-established, things are so much better that you don’t want to go back to the old ways, yet…
  • There are forces constantly pulling you back because it seems easier the old way.

The Personal Lean Lifestyle

What do you have to change to succeed at your personal Lean lifestyle change?  A lot of things:

  • Activity levels – you need to exercise regularly and change routines to increase activity, like taking the stairs or parking your car farther from your destination
  • How and where you shop – choosing healthy low calorie foods and avoid the temptations of junk food
  • Going out to eat – choosing restaurants that make it easier to choose healthy items from the menu
  • Tracking your progress – both the driver metrics of weight loss (calories burned and calories consumed) as well as the outcome metric of your actual weight

It’s not simple, but over time, your commitment to the process pays off.

The Lean Lifestyle for Leaders

What do you have to change to succeed at implementing a Lean management system in your organization? You guessed it … A lot of things:

  • Your work schedule – developing leader standard work to ensure you are prioritizing the most important things, creating a “no meeting zone”
  • Where you go – Going to the gemba regularly, attending huddles daily, participating in improvement events
  • What you do as a leader – changing from being “the decider” who tells others what to do, to a coach and mentor who empowers others to make decisions and take action
  • How you track progress – using visual management and celebrating Red Metric Results because they show you where you need to focus, developing countermeasures for metrics that are off track

These changes are equally challenging, and commitment to following the process pay off handsomely as well.

There are many other changes we need to make to succeed at going Lean in our personal or professional lives, but you get the idea.

Commitment – The Key to Lean Lifestyle Success

Whether you are trying to lose weight, or trying to change your management system and culture, the key to success is the same.  You need to commit to a personal change and follow through on that commitment.

If you get frustrated and give up on your weight loss program because you don’t lose ten pounds in the first two weeks, it’s likely you’ll never be successful in the long run.  Successful weight loss is a slow and steady process that takes time and persistence. As you achieve your weight loss, the side benefits yield improvements in many aspects of your life.

If you get frustrated and give up on your Lean organizational transformation because you don’t see a 3:1 ROI in the first six months, you’ll likely never develop a Lean culture.  (You can get quick ROI, but only by focusing on high return value streams like revenue cycle.) Successful culture change is a slow and steady process that takes time and persistence.  With a mature Lean transformation, you will improve far more than your financial performance.

Just remember this when you feel discouraged and tempted to quit. In the end, achieving a Lean lifestyle, personally and organizationally, are well worth the effort.  In both cases you will feel better, have more energy, and have more fun!

What do you think? Do you see comparisons between personal change and organizational change?  Feel free to share your thoughts with a comment!





2 Responses to The Lean Lifestyle, Personally and Professionally

  1. I see there is a direct correlation with personal (lifestyle and ‘work’) change and organizational change. You probably know a guy who told me a way to get started was “stop eating french fries”. Organizations can start similarly. Their ‘french fries’ might be ‘stop double booking meetings’, or ‘stop starting new initiatives when the current ones haven’t been done yet’. Don’t know what their ‘stop’ is in an organization, but it does correlate. Thanks for sharing, Paul. Keep it comin’

    • John, This is a great example of “empty calories” in an organization. When we schedule or plan things we know we can’t do, who do we think we are kidding? It takes discipline to say “no” to fries or simply accepting another meeting, but it does damage in the long run.

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