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LEAN - Lost in Translation

There are times when leadership sets their gaze on operations in order to better delight their customers, increase margins, or improve operational excellence. This gaze for many companies has translated into a journey of continuous improvement – the playground for LEAN.

All across the world companies have embraced LEAN principles and practices in almost every business sector. In many cases, LEAN initiatives have produced remarkable results and for some created a new “way of organizational life.” Continuous improvement has become a centring force as a means for aligning a company’s workforce with management objectives.

With this success, the mantra of continuous improvement has expanded, along with the LEAN tools and practices, to other areas of the business such as: quality, safety, environmental, regulatory and other compliance functions.

However, in these cases, LEAN has not helped as much as it could and in fact in some cases has made things worse.

The problem has not been with the translation of Japanese words such as “Gemba”, “Kaizen”, “Muda”, “Muri”, and others. Instead, the problem is with the translation of LEAN itself.

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