Is Lean Too Elitist?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Lean Edge, a website which touts itself as a “dialogue between business leaders and lean authors” offers some neat perspectives of lean, and inspired me to write an article about a post by Tracey Richardson.   She talks about the lean term, nemawashi,  which she says means “prepping the soil” or “digging around the roots” in Japanese, and is a metaphor for laying the groundwork, like in gaining the support of other people, or in a physical sense.

I have come across it in all my lean training, but I can’t say I’ve used it at all (in its specific terminology). According to Richardson, nemawashi is as important at Toyota as other, more frequently-referenced concepts:

In my time at Toyota, nemawashi was as common as the word kaizen (continuous improvement). You really weren’t suppose to start any problem solving activity or improvement without embedding nemawashi into that thinking process from start to finish (P to the A).  Sounds easy huh?  Well it’s actually a discipline and those habits aren’t usually formed easily.

I appreciate Ms. Richardson’s personal perspective on this particular concept, and I’m always up for learning new things, but I think, maybe sometimes, that having to have a specific word, especially in another language, sort of takes away from our own “brand” on lean.

First of all, it means devoting so much of our memory to trying to keep up with all these buzzwords, when we should be focusing our energy on just laying the groundwork, and it seems to be so in the realm of common sense as to not even need its own terminology.  I also think that, in order to try and get people onboard to a way of thinking like lean, using innumerable foreign terms can almost come across as pretentious and exclusive.Those are just some opinions, though.

Obviously, I’m not trying to ruffle too many feathers, and I highly value the principles of lean and its limitless tools, but I just think some people tend to focus on the terms and specifics, and less on the results.

What’s YOUR take on my opinion?

Read Ms. Richardson’s article here =>

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