Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested in just being good.

(Vince Lombardi)

I’ve heard Lean Transformation described as a marathon versus a sprint. Both imply an endpoint, something that you finish. I prefer to think of it as a perpetual journey toward perfection; you don’t ever get there, but you’re always moving closer.

Though I’m rooted in the principles, systems and tools of TPS via Shingijutsu Consulting, my approach is aligned with the Shingo Model for Operational Excellence. It incorporates lessons learned from forty-plus years of practical experience with more than 100 companies at 300-plus locations across eight countries. I know what you need to do when, what to steer you away from, and how to coach you and your people at every level through it.

The objectives of a CI40 Lean Transformation are simple:

  • Elevating workforce engagement
  • Developing ability to sustain the transformation
  • Creating more value with less waste of resources
  • Improving operating and financial performance
  • Improving customer service
  • Enabling growth
  • Evolving a Lean Thinking culture
  • While improved financial performance is one of our objectives, we are not about just teaching the tools to cost-cutting. That approach is not sustainable in the long run. It’s certainly not renewable year over year, and more often than not leads to some very bad unintended effects.

    Before helping with any training or improvement activity I want to understand the current state of the business and what you want it to be. If it’s a multisite business I want to conduct a rapid assessment the best and worst sites, gather and analyze just enough data to understand operating and financial performance, customer satisfaction, workforce engagement, and get a feel for the culture.
    A short strategy planning session (less than a day) with leadership is next to paint a vision of where we want to go, why, and how fast. We’ll determine together where to dive in first, the transformation pace, and internal resources required.

    We do offer formal class-room education, but our approach is ninety percent “learning-by-doing”. It’s the most effective method of gaining and retaining an understanding of the principles and tools, create some early wins, accelerate return on your investment, and most importantly transform the way the way a person thinks and behaves regarding continuous improvement and waste elimination.

    This “learning by doing” takes place in what we call Rapid Improvement Events; you may have heard them called Kaizen Events, or Blitz’s, or Improvement workshops. These are cross-functional week-long activities to see and remove waste from processes and value streams. Where and why we conduct these events is determined in the strategy session with Leadership.

    The objectives of Rapid Improvement Event are to make processes safer and easier for your people to perform, with better quality, and faster service (shorter end-to-end time) for customers, and cheaper (lower cost) than before. The tag line for your events should be “Safer, Easier, Better, Faster, Cheaper”, in that specific order.

    We work with Leadership to identify a small group of candidates with a specific set of attributes to become your internal experts, we call them Lean Practitioners. This group does receive some intense class-room education and completes our qualification process.
    Qualification requires full-time immersion for at least two years (longer if part-time), completing a self-directed reading program, and demonstrated ability to apply the tools appropriately and productively, and teach others in both shop and office to do the same.

    Regarding the number of events, it’s possible to go “too slow” to transform the business, and “too fast” for changes to take hold. We have a simple resource planning model to help you figure out the right number of events and Lean Practitioners based on the size of your organization, and project your expected return on investment.

    Lean Transformation is not a spectator sport. Everyone must play, especially Leadership. The entire Leadership Team should get a minimum of twelve full events under their belt as quickly as possible. Preferably within twelve months, but twenty-four months will do.

    In addition to setting the example for everyone else to follow you’ll learn more about your people, processes, and problems during an event than you possibly could in any other way. You’ll become familiar with guiding principles, foundational tools, and develop your own set “Lean eyes”. You’ll start to see opportunity almost everywhere that’s not readily apparent to you now. If the “entire” Leadership Team isn’t willing to do this, then we’re probably not interested in helping turn your organization around.

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Everyone else in the organization should be given the opportunity to participate on at least one team every eighteen to twenty-four months. We’ve learned there’s a very strong positive correlation between participation and workforce engagement as measured by the Gallup Q12. A tipping-point is reached when two-thirds of the organization has participated on at least two events, there’s no going back after that. To set expectations, at an aggressive transformation pace this is going to take at least four, and more likely five years. That’s not very long in Lean Transformation terms.

  • “Safer, Easier, Better, Faster, Cheaper”
  • In that specific order.

Net return-on-investment per event will start out small and grow over time as the organization gains more experience and trust in the process. Typically, $30,000 per event the first year growing to $50,000 or more by year three or four. To use a sports analogy, not every event will be a homerun. There’ll be a lot more singles and doubles, and some strikeouts as well. But the organization can learn and benefit from every one of them.

As waste is driven out and value streams are transformed to “flow and pull”, changes in how the organization is managed become necessary or the gains won’t be sustained. Front-line Supervision has to shift their focus from the daily numbers to improving the process that led to those numbers. Executive Leadership has to spend some time deliberately shaping the culture. While much has been written on the subject of Lean Management, a very small percentage of organizations have actually done it successfully.

David Mann, author of “The Missing Link: Lean Leadership” stated “systematic Lean Leadership separates those initiatives that start well but falter from those that sustain the initial gains and deliver further improvement”. I agree with him.

CI40 will help you sustain and extend those initial gains via our Managing for Daily Improvement System, MDI for short. It contains all the elements of a Lean Management System, but it’s not theoretical. It’s been continuously improved from practical lessons learned in all types and size of company. The gains will be sustained, and MDI will begin driving many small improvements every day that add up to big gains each year.

The CI40 approach goes way beyond the tools. Ultimately our objective is to move the organization from “just doing lean things” to “becoming a lean thinking organization” as quickly and productively as possible. Our concept of a Lean Thinking Organization is one in which:

  • The entire organization is aligned on a simple, clearly defined and widely communicated “Vision of Success” or “True North”
  • Every person, at every level is relentlessly focused on the elimination of waste from every process every day.
  • “Ideal behaviors” like “make problems visible”, “stop and fix”, “no defect passed forward”, and “use and improve Standard Work” are prevalent throughout the organization.
  • “All” value streams have been transformed to “flow” and “pull”
    • o At least six full Plan-Do-Check & Adjust (PDCA) cycles have been completed on all strategically important value streams.
  • Countless small PDCA cycles are steadily driving Operating and Financial performance, and Customer Service in a better direction.
  • “Total Productivity” and “Inventory Turns” have quadrupled, and “Order Take to Collection” has been cut by at least two-thirds.

CI40 Transformations

  • Create Competitive Advantage
  • Enable Growth
  • Transform The Workplace
  • Elevate Engagement
  • Banish

Create Competitive Advantage

Deliver products and services, respond to customer requests, and bring products to market in a quarter of the time it takes you today.


Enable Growth

Grow productivity five-times and repurpose liberated cash, labor, equipment, and floor space to new revenue generation.


Transform the Workplace

Increase your revenue generating density and make it easy to see normal from abnormal at-a-glance in any process or workspace.


Elevate Engagement

Every employee dedicates a higher percentage of their discretionary time helping the organization achieve it’s objectives.


Banish Waste

Every person, at every level relentlessly focused on the elimination of waste from every process, every day.

Lean Transformation Journey

Phase 1

“Tool Driven”
*Years 1 to 2

Introduce the principles and tools,
engage the entire workforce

  • Baseline Assessment
  • Strategy Session with Leadership
    • Performance History
    • SWOT Analysis
    • Vision” and “Improvement Objectives”
    • Key Value Streams to Engage
      • Pick a Model Value Stream
    • Key Performance Indicators
    • Model the Required Resources and Projected Returns
    • Redeployment Hierarchy
  • Develop multi-faceted Communication Campaign
  • CI Practitioners” begin Qualification Process
    • These will become our internal coaches
  • Introduce Continuous Improvement Cycle (PDCA)
  • Begin Transformation at n x 5% Teams / Year Pace
    • Value Stream Analysis Sessions
      • Complete at least two full passes on Key Value Streams, four on the Model
      • Rapid improvement Events
      • Mini-Events
  • Introduce Managing for Daily Improvement (MDI)
    • Visual Controls
    • Standard Daily Rounds
    • Huddle Boards & Huddles
  • Classroom Education
    • Classroom Education
    • CI Practitioners (Internal Experts)

Phase 2

“System Driven”
*Years 2 to 4

Integrate into how we run the business

  • Accelerate Transformation Pace to n x 7% Teams / Year
  • Grow the “Qualified” CI Practitioner base to at least 1% of population
  • Complete at two more passes on Key Value Streams and the Model
    • Engage additional Value Streams
  • Annual Maturity Assessments
  • Strategy Deployment
    • Strategy Deployment
    • iStrategy Deployment
    • Top to bottom catchball / alignment
    • Quarterly Check-Adjust Cadence
  • Flesh out the MDI System
    • Gemba Walks
    • Leader Standard Work (all levels)
    • Huddle Hierarchy
      • Huddle Hierarchy
    • Huddle Hierarchy
    • Leader Standard Work (all levels)
  • Leader Standard Work (all levels)
  • Reinforce “Ideal Behaviors” to shape the culture
    • Go and See
    • Make Problems Visible
    • Stop and Fix
    • No Defect Passed Forward
    • Use and Improve Standard Work
  • Classroom Education
    • Managing for Daily Improvement Managing for Daily Improvement
    • Shaping the Lean Culture (Execs)

Phase 3

“Principle Driven”
*Years 4 and On

Fully instill into our Culture

  • Accelerate Pace of Transformation to n x 10% Teams / Year
  • Grow the “Qualified” Practitioner base to at least 2% of population
  • Complete at least two more passes on Key Value Streams and the model
    • Transform all other Value Streams to “Flow and Pull”
  • “Hire to Retire” Value Stream aligned with the desired culture
    • Attracting – Selecting – Hiring - On-Boarding
    • Training and Development
    • Performance Appraisal
    • Reward and Recognition
    • Incentives
    • Retention
    • Succession and Promotions
  • MDI System drives countless small cycles of PDCA
  • Relentless focus on the elimination of waste
    • Every person, every level, every process, every day
  • Continuous progress toward “True North” (perfect state
  • Ideal Behaviors” become prevalent throughout the Organization
    • Go and See
    • Make Problems Visible
    • Stop and Fix
    • No Defect Passed Forward
    • Use and Improve Standard Work
  • Easy to discern normal from abnormal at-a-glance everywhere in the workplace
  • Classroom Training
    • TBD
*If the system is followed
n = population
Phases overlap