The Considerations and Factors to Address when Planning Your First Business or Workplace Lean Process Improvement Project

Introducing Lean into a company is not going to be easy even if it is valuable. You have to address the culture change that Lean requires, the new Lean behaviors that must be adopted, and you have to control the Lean introduction process so that it is achieved in good time and with the available resources.



Hello Mike,

We are one of the biggest automotive parts manufacturers in our country and are now seeking to install and implement our first lean production system. We would be grateful if you inform us in detail about the services your consultancy offers in those fields (Lean implementation strategy, duration, costs, etc).



Hello Friend,

Thank you for making contact. I will correspond by email for the moment, as your requirement needs a great deal more detail before a formal project proposal can be submitted.

From your website I presume your operations total several thousands of people. Each one of them will need to be trained in the aspects of Lean that affect them. Managers, Engineers and Supervisors will require even more specific training. For the training to be effective, and cost no more than necessary, it will require people from your company to deliver it. This means you will get most out of consultants like us if we train and work with the core group that takes Lean into your company. We would be trainers, mentors and coaches to these core people but they would do the actual implementation, while we provide support and expert guidance to them.

With the skills and techniques the core group learn they will be able to conduct all Lean value stream mapping surveys, introduce and project manage the new Lean methods required, and once they are experienced, they will also teach others and become coaches and mentors to the people throughout your operation. Lean introduction into a company of your size is a project that will span several years, cost several tens of millions of dollars to perform and require total commitment and dedication by all senior people in your organization until it is successfully operating, which could take a decade. Expect many difficulties along the way, though careful planning and risk review will reduce these to a minimum.

My own organization supports your lean initiative with the resources we have by offer to be the project managers and run the project in conjunction with your senior people. Where necessary we bring-in additional Lean expertise and help for the project by using other Lean consultants under our stewardship. You would likely need our permanent presence on your site for some time and this requires a team of people at your facility that rotate on a monthly basis (say 4-5 on-site and 8-10 in total on the team for up to a couple of years, but that must be confirmed as part of the detailed Lean introduction project planning).

Here is our suggested approach for Lean introduction into your business, with a rough concept of the time required to move through each step for an organization like yours that needs to learn everything from the start (Not that we will be there for that length of time, rather, it it an estimate of how long it will take your company to assimilate and complete a step). We think it could save you up to 10 years of effort learning and adopting Lean methods by yourself.

  1. All senior management trained on key Lean concepts and requirements for Lean implementation (maximum group size of ten for two days each group). (2 weeks)
  2. Full, detailed preliminary proposal for Lean introduction, including identifying all resources, upper boundary costs and preliminary implementation schedule by department. (6 weeks)
  3. Senior management select internal Lean Project Managers in each department (how many project leaders depends on departmental size, complexity and number of groups in a department) and together we all plan the Lean Introduction Project in great detail department by department, identifying progression of Lean concepts and practices to introduce, the associated costs, schedule and resources required. This includes conducting regular risk analyses to review departmental plans for risks to Lean project success (6 months)
  4. Senior management approve and commit resources and funding to the Lean Implementation Project and appoint the Lean Team Leaders in each department (The Lean Team Leader is not the same role as a Lean Project Manager, but can be the same person) (2 weeks)
  5. All management and supervisory levels throughout the operation are trained on basics of Lean concepts by Lean Project Managers (to get your key people’s support from the beginning of the project) (2-3 months)
  6. All Lean Team Leaders, Engineers, Supervisors and Managers in all production departments undergo detailed training and desktop simulations in the Lean concepts to initially be used (e.g. Basic TQM, Kanban flow management, VSM, 5S Visual Workplace, SMED, Root Cause Analysis, etc.) (3-4 months)
  7. Department Teams Leaders introduce their shop floor people to Lean concepts (to explain to everyone what is happening to the company, why it is necessary and how it affects people’s future with the organization) (2-3 months)
  8. Department Project Managers, Team Leaders and their teams plan the detailed introduction of the Lean concepts and methods they will use in their workplace and review plans for risks to success (2-3 months)
  9. Department Project Managers and Teams organize and conduct trials of concepts to become highly familiar with the requirements (4-6 months)
  10. Department Project Managers, Team Leaders and Teams progressively alter their workplaces and change-over to the Lean practices (4-6 months)
  11. Teams refine Lean practices, improve through doing and become competent in them (12-18 months)
  12. Senior Managers and Lean Project Managers review which additional Lean concepts to introduce into departments (e.g. more advanced requirements of Lean like TPM, JIT, Error-Proofing, Advanced TQM, etc) (2 months)
  13. Items 3 to 12 repeat in a continuous improvement loop (2-3 years per loop through)

To help you make a great start my organization can provide items 1 and 2, which are to provide the training of your senior managers and help compile the preliminary project proposal in detail. After that you will need to decide if it wants to adopt the proposal as developed. From that decision follows all other resourcing requirements and costs, which will be clearly identified in the proposal report. If we become part of your Lean project to become a Lean organization my company will be the project managers and subcontract any additional resources required.

To do a proper job of developing a thorough preliminary proposal to become a Lean organization, and to truly understand the complexity of the work you need to undertake, I must see your entire operation myself, along with another senior consultant. It will take a full week on-site (separate to the management training) for both of us. Many photographs will be taken and questions asked of your managers. Then we require another two weeks back in in our offices to develop the full proposal with a thoroughly detailed preliminary plan and costing. We will then return to present the proposal to your senior people and discuss the next steps your company want to take. Throughout the entire proposal development we work closely with your key people to get their input and concerns, and keep them fully informed as the proposal matures.

I hope that these thoughts will be of use to you as you contemplate your company’s Lean process improvement plans.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ


P.S. Find out more from our Introducing Lean Six Sigma, 5S and TPM training PowerPoint presentations at the Lean and Quality Management Training Store where you can purchase them online.

P.P.S. If you require advice or input on Lean Business Processes, Lean Manufacturing or Lean Improvement, please feel free to contact me by email at