Century-old business has tried continuous improvement several times over a decade and it stalled yet again. Sustainable culture change with lean at the core needs to stick this time.


  • Gemba walk entire, complex, multi-facility process for complete view of the work as it actually happens. Heavy interaction with those doing the work, including most of the support teams and key suppliers.
  • Give the ‘story’ and frustrations a space to be heard by involving many employees in projects they have passion for. Included management recalibration to provide more space and emphasis on this which meant rethinking what to focus on and what to put on hold.
  • Determine activity and change threshold for organization so momentum could be built quickly but not outpacing the organization’s ability to sustain changes or negatively impact financial performance.


  • Create simple visual accountability structure so a transparent view of sustainment of changes across the entire process was central to how management and planning proceeded
  • Ramp up and align activities to strategic gaps, particularly around wasted time by the workforce along value creation chain
  • Implement a six month, customized capability building course for front line and director level management to move them out of ?fire fighting? and into ?system builders?


  • $1.1M sustained savings, a 4x ROI in the first 5 months.
  • Expanded lean program execution from 1 event per week to 4 without additional headcount, 80% average sustainment, and an 85% (+/-9%) team satisfaction rating.? Featured in Quality Progress, August 2011.
  • Established 6 foundational program elements in the first 90 days: 1) kaizen newspapers, 2) standard weekly reports, 3) event templates, 4) standard event leadership training, 5) weekly event audits, and 6) visual schedule and impact of events.