Many conversations in the Lean world are about distinguishing “tools only” Lean organizations from those that are pursuing the real thing. Often, this is framed as a problem of “getting it right” when it comes to the practice of Lean. My view, however, is that there’s something much larger at play here.
Lean Enterprise Institute CEO John Shook told me in an interview that a company is essentially “a collection of people.” That sounds pretty basic, but many business people wouldn’t even agree on that.
For example, a company seen through the shareholder value lens might appear as a collection of assets such as brand equity, patents, physical infrastructure, and establishment in a protected market. People, in this view, may well be dispensable.
Without the precept that people are essential to the company, there’s no hope for enterprise Lean, regardless of how sophisticated the methods are.