Like many other things in life, continuous improvement is often misunderstood. During my journey, the following are the most common lean misconceptions that I have encountered.
Most common lean misconception
CI is not a department store. Therefore, you don’t get to pick and choose what you think you need. CI is a system where you can only achieve consistent results is by using all its parts. CI is a business management system designed to provide customer value with fewer resources. It is made up of a group of principles, best practices, and tools.
The heart of the system is the people, and you show respect by developing them. Moreover, these motivated and engaged teams participate in the improvement process and create value. In other words, you cannot focus on the tools while ignoring the people’s part.
Delegating the culture change is another lean misconception
The second misconception is the idea of delegating the implementation. CI thinking is opposite to traditional management. For a successful transformation, the company culture has to change. This change only happens if it is coming from top to bottom. Top leaders need to learn and practice CI every day, everywhere, just like the rest of the team. They show commitment by supporting and actively participating in the transformation.
Lean or continuous improvement is not a cost reduction tool
Another mistake is believing that CI is a cost reduction tool. Do not start this journey without a clear purpose. Why do you want to do it? If the answer is cost reduction, think again. Go and see, ask why, and show respect will lead you to achieve cost goals. But that cannot be the purpose. Instead, think about changing lives or creating value.
The biggest lean misconception is that it is for manufacturing only
The biggest misconception is believing that CI is only for manufacturing companies. Have you heard about Continuous improvement, Best Business Practices, Danaher Business System, or Lean Manufacturing? All of them are different names for a way to conduct business.
The foundation for those systems is the Toyota Production System (TPS). The name Lean Manufacturing shifts your attention to manufacturing. Also, TPS makes people focus on cars. I prefer to use continuous improvement or Best Business Practices. Those are general terms with no reference to any industry.
Now you know what not to expect from continuous improvement. If you haven’t yet, read my post What is Continuous Improvement and Why you Need it? You will see why you need it in your business.