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Bookmark = culture

What is lean culture?

Lean culture is when continuous improvement is done with people, not to people.

There are 3 primary cultural enablers

1) Ethical Lean Leadership

Executive leaders that are role models and mentors for kaizen principles

2) People development and empowerment

Your most valuable assets are the ones that think

3) Environmental and safety systems

That reflect honest respect for individual & community well-being

What's the difference between lean management and lean culture?

Lean culture is the sum of its individuals' habits

Lean management is a systematic way to shape those habits

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."   ~ Peter Drucker

What's the difference between lean management and traditional mgmt?

There are many differences between a lean system and a batch & queue system,
but the most essential difference is:

  • Traditional batch & queue management focuses almost exclusively on results
  • A lean management system focuses on both:
    results, and the processes that produce the results

See our suggested readings for Lean Management

Bookmark = leadership

Lean Leadership

Popular ways to organize your process improvement teams

1) Daily Accountability Teams

The backbone of your lean daily management system

One of the most noticeable differences between a new vs. a mature lean organization is the percent of improvements generated by their Lean Daily Management System.

In a mature lean organization:

Any improvements that are within the control of a single team
should routinely and systematically be found and improved by that team.

Every team member not only knows which tools to use to solve diverse problems, but also understands the underlying lean principles, and comes up with creative ways to apply them to unique challenges.

A much larger percentage of ideas for cross-team improvements are generated and trickled up from the Daily Accountability Teams.

All other types of teams are needed only for processes that cross team boundaries.

In a less mature organization:

Opportunities for improvement come much more frequently from lean leadership or "outside eyes" that have become more adept at learning to see opportunities to eliminate waste —

and therefore each of the following types of cross-functional teams have even greater importance in the early stages of an organization's lean journey.

2) Kaizen Events

A Kaizen Event is one popular way to achieve dramatic process improvements in a very short time (less than a week), by sequestering a team of representatives for all process stakeholders — who then focus 100% of their effort to perform an intense burst of improvement.

Lean training Kaizen Event training videos

Daily Kaizen vs. Kaizen Events

Small daily improvements come from the Daily Accountability Teams
(also known as Quality Circles, Process Improvement Teams, and many other names, and some organizations don't even have a name for these teams. Every team is simply organized, managed, and expected to continuously improve in measurable ways as part of their routine responsibilities.)

Kaizen Events demand the full-time attention of a cross-functional team for a very intense burst of improvement.

3) A3 Charters

The A3 Problem Solving Method can be done by sequestering the team (similar to a kaizen event), or (more commonly), can be led by a champion who meets with individuals and small groups of stakeholders on a more flexible time schedule.

A3 Problem Solving is a flexible, time-effective, and popular way to organize a cross-functional improvement effort — often without the need to form a team.

It is a simple, (easily-duplicated and managed) method to systematically:

  1. Define and solve problems
  2. Teach managers how to better coach, mentor, and lead
  3. Instill lean thinking as a cultural habit

A3 Report

A3 Report

4) 8D Problem Solving

The 8D Problem Solving Method provides a systematic way for a team to resolve an issue that has uncertain root causes — in a way that ensures that root causes have been identified and verified — and that both interim and permanent corrective actions are validated for effectiveness and instituted in a way that prevents a similar situation from ever recurring or escaping again.

8D is most often used in conjunction with Corrective Action Reports — if (and only if) the root cause is uncertain. Other problem methods are more appropriate if the focus is only upon decision making or problem prevention.

8D Report

8D Report

5) Chartered Six Sigma Teams

Another approach to solving a problem that has uncertain root causes is to charter a Six Sigma Team —
to Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and then Control the improved process — usually using statistical analysis and data-gathering techniques that are appropriate for more mature organizations that have already “picked the low-hanging fruit” by using simpler lean methods.

6) Process Improvement Teams

Lean Teams for Process Improvement

Almost every leader is familiar with a Gantt Chart and other types of Project Management tools.

Too familiar perhaps... because these 1950's approaches to team organization are only appropriate for large, complex projects — like:

For most lean implementation missions, there are usually better approaches.

Excel Gantt Chart

Excel Gantt Chart

7) Value Stream Teams

All of the above types of teams put the cart before the horse if the mission of the team was not first chartered by the Value Stream Team.

The purpose of a Value Stream Team is to identify which priorities will yield the most value to the flow of value through the entire value stream — not just some sub-optimized sub-set of it.

8) Hoshin Policy Deployment Teams

The purpose of Hoshin Policy Deployment Teams is to ensure that every team in the entire organization is optimizing their efforts to support a synergistic Strategic Plan.

Different Hoshin Teams might use any or all of the various problem solving tools and methods — at different times and for different purposes.

Word templates to define YOUR Team Roles

Your Systems2win continuous improvement templates include several Word templates
that are intended to serve as a starting point for your Continuous Improvement Leaders
to create PDF's of YOUR company’s continuous improvement leadership roles:

And then your personalized PDF's are then distributed the same way that you store and distribute all of your company’s policies (as defined in the Storage and Naming Policies PDF in your portal).

Word template - Team Roles



Refer to the Continuous Improvement Leadership Roles template for
leadership team names, role titles, ideal profiles, and performance evaluation criteria for
the teams and roles that support all of your other types of Process ImprovementTeams:

Bookmark = System

Lean Management System

Every element of every lean production system should be simultaneously implemented with a corresponding
lean management system to support and sustain it.


Essential elements of a lean management system

  1. Visual Controls are the most obvious clue to look for. Visual management systems stand out, are an essential component of any lean system, and are supposed to be implemented as the very first element of any lean management system.

    For every one of the types of Continuous Improvement teams (above) — one of the required outcomes must be for that team to establish excellent Visual Management Systems — so that with one quick glance, any third-grade visitor can know whether or not every process is or is not achieving its objectives.

  2. Routine Accountability Habits include frequent gemba walks, systematized
    PDCA Coaching
    , and multi-tiered daily stand-up meetings, where the visual Team Accountability Board serves as the meeting place, agenda, and progress report.

    Every person in your company is the member of at least one, and often several teams.
    Every team is systematically held accountable to demonstrate
    process improvement effort and results on a routine basis (often daily).

  3. Leader Standard Work checklists are carried and followed by Team Leaders, Department Supervisors, Value Stream Managers, and even top-level executives — as a way
    to systematically get above-average results from average managers.

Lean Management Templates

Lean Assessment template

to assess the progress of your change initiatives

Lean Six Sigma Storyboard
Before & After Storyboard

One Good Idea — Before & After Storyboard

Lean storyboard, Six Sigma story board

Leader Standard Work templates

for your Team Leaders, Department Supervisors, Value Stream Managers, and top-level Executives

(These percentages are lower in a lean healthcare or lean office environment,
but the fundamentals of the underlying lean management system are the same)

PDCA Coaching templates

PDCA Coaching template PDCA Coaching Kata Pocket Card PDCA Coaching Observations
PDCA Coaching templates

As part of your Improvement Kata routine habits, use your PDCA template for Learner and Coach to maintain a record of past experiments, results, and learnings — and to plan your next PDCA experiment.

Immediately after each coaching session, your Coach's Coach uses the PDCA Coaching Observations template to mentor both you and your Coach to more fully embrace the teachings and habits of both the Improvement Kata and the Coaching Kata.

Publish your printed PDCA Coaching template
on your Team Accountability Board to serve as a Lean Storyboard.

Continuous Improvement Leadership tools

for the types of continuous improvement projects typically encountered on your lean journey

Leader Checklist


What drives cultural change?

Expectations for clearly defined behavior, and consistently applied processes for supporting it.

Every element of any lean production system must have a corresponding lean management system element to support it.

"If I had to choose between lean training for a new recruit to lead a lean area or providing him or her with a copy of clearly written standard work, I would choose standard work every time."

David Mann ~ Author of Creating a Lean Culture

Bookmark = Accountability

Routine Accountability Habits

Lean Management systems to instill Lean Culture habits

  1. Gemba Walk
  2. Audits
  3. Leader Standard Work
  4. Stand Up Meetings
  5. Kata — Habits for Lean Coaching

Gemba Walk

Go to the place, look at the process, talk with the people

The primary purpose of gemba walking is to teach

Yes, there are many other benefits:

But the overwhelming primary purpose of a gemba walk is to teach.

When you are the gemba walker, you are playing the role of sensei (mentor, coach, teacher).
A gemba walk is a master-disciple, teacher-student form of learning —
where your goal as sensei is to ask questions (fighting your strong impulse to just tell them what to do)
that cause your student to see things differently,
to look at a process that may be many years familiar to them,
and to see it fresh and anew with “kaizen eyes”,
suddenly seeing waste that has always been there,
but that suddenly becomes visible in an “aha” moment.


“Aha” moments happen only when a student is actively thinking,
not just receiving information.
And the best way to trigger thinking is to ask questions.

Questions designed to cause the learner to
see waste that they never noticed before,
and questions designed to stimulate the learner to
creatively apply lean tools, methods, and teachings
in creative, improvised ways that fit the needs of this unique situation.

Each unique situation almost always requires some invention
and adaptation of lean principles.
In the real world, it is rare to be able to apply a tool or method
in the exact same form that it was introduced in a book, or even in a Systems2win template. That's one reason that your Systems2win templates are written using Microsoft Word and Excel — so that it is easy to personalize them for your unique situations that you encounter on your lean journey.

The role of the sensei is to ask questions, introduce new tools and approaches, stimulate new thinking, teach, and (sparingly) to give advice... but the student should always be responsible for making all decisions. The only decision that the sensei makes is whether to continue working with the student — based on their follow through to commitments.

The primary benefit of this Socratic method of asking questions (instead of just telling answers) is that the student learns much more thoroughly. Thoroughly enough to soon start doing their own gemba walks with their own subordinates, with your student slowly but surely evolving into their own incarnation of master sensei.

The primary challenge of this gemba walk method of learning is that it is slow. It requires patience.

To be most effective, gemba walking should start from the top down. Gemba walking should ideally start with a very experienced consultant serving as the sensei for your President and executive-level Change Agent. Just seeing your top-level leaders out there on the production floor on a weekly basis will do wonders to deliver the message to everyone in the company that "this change initiative is different".

Let the boss be the boss... (sensei)

By nature, senior-level executives are far more comfortable in the role of leader, rather than learner.

So rather than putting them in the position of being a "student" right there in front of the people they manage, it a much better idea for the consultant sensei to serve as a tactful mentor —
helping each executive prepare for 15 minutes before each of his or her gemba walks,
and then spending time after each gemba walk to help the executive learn from the fresh experience and use what was just learned to prepare for the next one —
and yet allow the executive to play the role of sensei even on their first gemba walks —
with the consultant only intervening with tactful guiding questions if and when the executive truly seems to need help.

Using the Lean Assessment template for gemba walk preparation

Lean Assessment template

Yes, consulting time can get expensive,
and yes, most executives are quick learners
that will be very motivated to do some self-study so that they can quickly be as competent and comfortable as possible with this new highly visible role.

That's where the Systems2win Lean Assessment template is so valuable...
A quick 5-minute review of these lean performance evaluation criteria will quickly refresh the executive's mind with the things to look for and questions to ask on their upcoming gemba walk.

The purpose of a gemba walk is to observe what is actually happening at the place where the work is being done,
and to mentor by asking questions and perhaps introducing or reminding of potentially helpful lean tools and teachings.

Rather than entering data into the form after each gemba walk,
and rather than bringing a printed copy of this Assessment on gemba walks, we suggest instead to simply...
spend a few minutes reviewing this Assessment form prior to each gemba walk
as an excellent way to prepare yourself mentally.


A Routine Accountability Habit

5S Scorecard

Each leader's standard work should include periodic audits — using audit checklists to remind them of what to always look for, and to provide a written archive record that can be analyzed for trends.

Audit checklists can be created for anything
that significantly influences the effectiveness of any process.

Popular audit checklists include the Standard Work Audit, the Lean Assessment Audit,
and the 5S Scorecard.

Audit Assessment Calibration

How do you get diverse people to assess audit questions using consistent criteria?

  1. The most senior leader reviews audit criteria with subordinate leaders — getting verbal agreement.
  2. Do an audit together — with each leader completing their own separate form — then compare and discuss.
  3. For the next few audit cycles (perhaps weekly) — have each leader complete an independent audit of the same area — and then get together to compare and discuss.
  4. Repeat — until audit assessments are reasonably in sync between all leaders.

Leader Standard Work

Leader Standard Work template

A Routine Accountability Habit

Leader Standard Work checklists are carried and followed by every Team Leader,
Department Supervisor, Value Stream Manager, and top-level executive —
as a way to systematically get above-average results from average people.

Stand Up Meeting

A Routine Accountability Habit

The Systems2win Leader Standard Work template includes detailed suggestions for how to structure 4 tiers
of routinely-scheduled stand up meetings — usually held in front of the team's Team Accountability Board.

  1. Team Leader with production team members
  2. Department Supervisor with Team Leaders
  3. Value Stream Manager with Supervisors and support resources
  4. Executive or Plant Manager with Supervisors and Value Stream Managers

Coaching Kata for the Improvement Kata

What are some field-tested guidelines for how to coach people?

What questions should I ask when I'm the Lean Leader on my gemba walks, or my audit discussions,
or the Leader Standard Work review meetings with my subordinates, or as part of regularly-scheduled
stand up meetings?

How does a lean coach think? And teach his people to think the same way?

That is the subject of the Coaching Kata habits
taught in Chapter 8: The Coaching Kata: Leaders as Teachers
of Mike Rother's book, Toyota Kata,
and his website expands the instruction even further in the Toyota Kata Handbook.

Mike's book, however, focuses on how to serve as a Coach for one specific process —
the Improvement Kata, which is appropriately used when one specific condition is encountered:
Navigating Unknown Territory.

If you are navigating unknown territory, then use your PDCA Coaching template.

If you are not navigating unknown territory, then you should be using your Tool Selection Matrix
to find a more appropriate approach for the challenge you are facing at the moment.

And every one of those other lean tools and methods needs a corresponding coaching system.

Also see more suggested readings for Lean Management




"The primary role of managers must shift from firefighting
to designing, aligning, and improving systems."

~ Dr. Shingo Shingeo

Bookmark = LeanCoaching

Lean Coaching habits for ANY Lean System

Every lean system needs a coaching system.

Suggestion: Bookmark this
section of this page,
and come back often
until these coaching habits
become absolutely ingrained
in everything you do

Here are some lean coaching habits that should become so ingrained
that they are "just the way we do things around here".

Do 2 things at once

As a Coach, your goals are:

  1. to get things done
  2. to teach your people to use lean thinking in everything they do


Go to the place where the work is done — and observe what is happening for yourself.
Go there repeatedly. Most coaching should be done where the work is done.

Ask non-leading questions

The best questions might have more than one obvious answer — and cause your people to honestly think and reflect, and maybe come up with ideas that you might have never considered.

Ask leading questions

Don't let your Learner wander too far away from the general direction of the target challenge.

Be systematic

Expand your own personal competence with a wide variety of process improvement tools and methods,
so that you can suggest helpful field-proven systematic approaches to any challenge.

Be creative

If there is no well-known standard lean system that exactly fits what you're trying to accomplish,
then use your Tool Selection Matrix to start with the closest one, then personalize it — using what you know about Lean Principles and your team's imagination to apply those principles in new, creative ways.

Have a 2nd Coach

Every sensei needs a sensei.
Every lean coaching system should include a systematic way to coach the coach.

mounting a horse

Truth in humor

See our short article on
Getting Team Members to Do What You Want

  1. The dog training school of thought
  2. The horse training school of thought
  3. The cat training school of thought

Bookmark = Training

Lean Management

Training & Demo Videos

More training for lean management

The Sample and Help worksheets of every template
always contain training relevant to THAT template









Video: Introduction to


Bookmark = Reading

Suggested Reading and Resources

If you appreciate our free on-line training, you can support us by buying your books through these links to Amazon.com

Also download the
Toyota Kata Handbook

More suggested reading


These lean management templates also come with many other templates that you will find useful on your lean journey

all for one low price


Order yours now




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Not just training.

But also systems
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Your purchase price is usually justified with the 1 or 2 templates that you use most

The others are a really nice
"gift with purchase"

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