This is the back story to how the phrases “Real Lean” and “Fake Lean” came about. fake_loser1

Soon after my Lean training with Shingijutsu consultants ended in 1997, it became apparent that most organizations were focused on Lean tools and ignored the people aspects of progressive management – specifically, the “Respect for People” principle. This was a major error in the application of Lean management that needed to be corrected, and that I could help correct it in my job as a manager and in subsequent work in higher education.

As I entered academia in 1999, one of my interests was to develop a graduate-level course on Lean leadership for working professionals. I thought it was important to highlight the contrast between organizations that did continuous improvement well and in ways that demonstrated respect for people, compared to organizations that did continuous improvement poorly and in ways that demonstrated disrespect for people (e.g. layoffs).

I wanted my students to complete the course having a clear understanding of the difference. A simple phrase would help draw out the contrast.

Sometime in late 2000 or early 2001, I coined the phrase “Fake Lean.” Around that time I was also using the term “Imitation Lean,” but decided that “Fake Lean” was a better way to describe the tool-based focus on continuous improvement that had become ubiquitous. So I incorporated “Real Lean” and “Fake Lean” into my university course and it was successful as the contrast generated important discussions related to the function of leadership and purpose of management.

The words helped create a memorable learning experience, one which I hoped that my students, many of them in mid-level management positions, would use to guide their organization, as best they could, towards Real Lean.

Unfortunately, many of my students work in large organizations whose bureaucracies and internal politics do not permit them to improve their leaders’ understanding of Lean. This is an excellent example of how organizations pay for employees to get educated, and then see to it that the (practical) education they received is never put to use.

In 2007, “Real Lean” became the title of my six-volume book series that explored various aspects of Lean leadership and Lean management, drawing heavily on the contrast between “Real Lean” and “Fake Lean.” You can read the back story to the REAL LEAN book series here.

I am pleased that these books are recognized by readers as an “Honest, realistic, and very much a manual for Lean in the real world” and “Much like your book titles and message, they are ‘real’ with respect to every day life in most businesses.”

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