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Change in Company Culture through Lean

Lean culture has proven that organizations can consistently improve their competitiveness. Thousands of companies have been inspired by the path set by Toyota, giving people the conditions for the pursuit of improved process flexibility and reliability. The Lean philosophy sets people as a fundamental part and seeks to provide them with the methodologies and the initiative to drive the improvement of all processes within their organizations.

Lean philosophy focuses on innovation and development process, not only because of the strong impact it has on the company’s results in the short and long term, but also because it strongly influences the performance of other processes:

  • Supply chain and purchasing efficiency
  • Productivity improvement through process improvement.
  • Improving the social environment
  • Development of new customers and markets
  • Customer satisfaction

It is therefore essential for any company to be able to identify and define the best compromise between:

  • The innovation organization model for future growth
  • Excellence in product/service development and improvement processes
  • Integration with other business processes (Lean Enterprise).

You cannot make this massive change overnight, nor can this new culture come from the bottom up, and more importantly, if the conversion to Lean is to happen, it has to be about people. You must help them see the waste and opportunities that have always existed in order for the change to be consistent and lasting.

How to change the company’s current culture

Ohno insisted that “costs are not to be calculated, but to be reduced” and that in production, data is important, but he preferred to put a higher emphasis on facts. So we should not be obstinate in the study of work without first understanding “the culture” of the company in which we want to implement an improvement methodology.

Lean culture does not respond to a unique standardized work scheme that we can copy from one organization to another. It is a way of being and doing, that we must stipulate according to the structure, objectives, philosophy, and many personal aspects of each individual company. In short, it is essential to take into account the essence and DNA of every organization. Fortunately, F.W. Taylor laid the foundations of the scientific organization of labor, and later Henry Ford introduced the first mass automobile production lines.

In the early 1990s, when the Japanese model arrived in Western countries, the characteristics of a new production system combining efficiency, flexibility, and quality were introduced. The concept of Lean Manufacturing (Lean applied to the industrial sector) was used for the first time. Today, the Lean Philosophy has evolved to new specific applications such as Lean Service (applied to service companies), Lean Office (applied to the office sector), and to other areas.

Under this philosophy, the common connection point is the performance of all members of the organization, establishing quality principles aimed at continuous improvement of the company. To point out that the essential pillar is without a doubt the elimination of waste (delivery, stocks, resources in general …). However, one of the biggest wastes of all time, and more in the industry 4.0 context with automation as a priority, is not taking advantage of the talent of the people who make up the organization’s human capital.

Steps for changing company culture

This work begins with the leader, and as we mentioned in our blog Leadership and Continuous Improvement he must dedicate himself to this approach because her/his success or failure will be determined by her/his actions and involvement. It is not possible to manage the change of culture in the company and the application of the Lean philosophy by delegating it. The leader has to be practical and lead the way, walk the talk, and her/his example must be the reference for the entire organization. As such People who decide to follow the behavior of their leader will assume naturally the responsibility of changing the company and its culture.

Changeing Company Culture


Bring the entire team together and explain WHY the change to Lean needs to be made, WHAT kind of results are expected, WHEN it will start and HOW it will be implemented. Do not forget that this message must come directly from the leader, again, it is not permissible to delegate. Be sure to also communicate to your team what they can expect for their own benefit, and be committed that the application of the Lean Philosophy in the Company through the involvement and contribution of the knowledge and know-how of all the components of the Team, is not oriented to the reduction of the Workforce, but to the improvement of Competitiveness and Job Security.

Define Objectives

Define and communicate the objectives that, once achieved, will differentiate your company from the competition. Clarify your answer to the question: “Why do we need to change?” These objectives will serve as a guide for all members of the company. And they must be realistic, but also ambitious and demanding, and they must be especially focused on improving processes by eliminating anything unnecessary. If you change your processes, your results will improve as you meet these objectives.

Adequacy of the structure is imperative

But it is not enough to set the objectives and set the path. If you want to change the company culture, you must make the organizational changes necessary to have the opportunity to achieve those goals, moving from functional departments based on the same type of team to value-stream teams.

How digitalization can help us to change company culture

Our people are connected in networks of all kinds, both in the company and in their day-to-day social life. Therefore, digitalization is part of the Lean cultural change. We definitely must take advantage of digitalization to make life easier for people in the company in Lean applications, in the same way, mobile phones have changed our lives. There is a huge benefit in time and resources with the mlean Production System suite of apps whose primary goal has been changing the culture of the company. We do believe that the most wasteful action today is not utilizing the base of knowledge of any company employee to improve the company’s performance. We believe the future is digitally….human. Learn more about the complete lean manufacturing product.

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