Is Lean always Mean?

People often believe that Lean is mean. But Lean was not developed for the purpose of dismissing employees.

Lean simply means being precisely designed to perform tasks as well as possible. A cheetah is Lean (and perhaps also a little Mean). It is built in a way that allows it to run very fast. Its muscles are therefore only suited to short, fast sprints and not to long-distance running, because a cheetah never does that. And that is exactly how Lean works in organisations. Designed to do your intended tasks well without having to worry about extra unrequested tasks.

We can dismiss employees with Lean!

Toyota has been applying Lean since the 1940’s with a philosophy of using it to give the organisation more development capacity. So, by working more efficiently, there is more capacity for developing new products. This has made Toyota one of the most innovative car manufacturers on the planet (consider Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid electric car). Lean is therefore not always a method aimed at dismissing employees. But if this is the objective, it is important that the fact is clearly and transparently communicated. Only then will Lean projects have any chance of success in your organisation.