When talking about Lean in general, usually the focus lies on the use of tools. Kaizen-events, the 5S workplace, Kanban-cards, Takt-time calculations and so on. But using Lean-tools doesn’t make you Lean per se.
It is very attractive to use the tools when starting a Lean-transformation. After all, it is a perfect distraction from the real issue: the company culture. To change the company culture means to change your own way of thinking. Look at it from a positive point of view: you do not have to change yourself. After all, the way you work and think is only an outcome of your education and working experience, not something fixed within your basic personality. And what was once learned, can be unlearned as well. With or without external help.
Tools don’t make you Lean
Imagine you want to do some home-improving. Since you have more than sufficient financial resources, you can either hire professional, or you can do it yourself. In this case, you decided to do it yourself, even if you don’t know anything about doing these kind of jobs. So you buy books and videos to study. After that, you buy the recommended tools and you feel you are ready to start.
So far, so good. But what happens if the wiring in your house is different from what is written in the book? Or if the piping doesn’t match the examples? Will you continue yourself or will you hire a professional to help you out? Are you a handyman, with your expensive tools and theoretical knowledge?
Moreover, what will happen if you have planned to do some home-improvement, but your financial resources are shrinking rapidly, e.g. due to losing your job? You know you have to do something, for your situation has changed dramatically, and that continuing the old way of thinking is not an option. Are you buying new tools or will you see if your old tools are still usable? Will you buy new materials, or will you see if the materials you already have are sufficient, with maybe some adjustments and adaption of plans? Will you start cluelessly and see where it ends, or will you take some extra time to think through your strategy and your actions? For you have the funding to do it one time right, there is no money for rework.
Of these examples, what is the Lean approach? The hint: Lean is born out of need.
Having the right tools available and gaining theoretical knowledge is just a start. Knowing why and how to use them, knowing how to solve problems and knowing when to invest (and when not) is what makes you Lean.
Is there a lesson to be learned from these examples? That is up to you. If you are not willing to radically change the way of thinking and working because there is no need to, then probably not. But if you are open to this approach, you will find out that the Lean philosophy is applicable everywhere.
To me, the below quote from Mr. Taiichi Ohio says it all:
“Knowledge is something you buy with the money. Wisdom is something you acquire by doing it.”