Lean Gardening – Planning Out Your Plot

It’s that time of year again.  Part I of a IV Part series on gardening and some connections to lean.  Let’s get dirty.

After spending five years in Maryland and another ten in Pennsylvania, my wife and I (and now our two girls) moved back to Connecticut in the spring of 2002.

We purchased a home that was built in the late 60’s from an older couple who had lived there for quite some time.  The wife, we soon discovered, had been an avid gardener.  Notice I said, “had been”.  Around the time of the closing, she handed us a map of the property showing literally hundreds of different types of plants with locations of where everything had been propagated.  Complete with genus and species names of course, so as not to confuse us.  It looked like a sketch of the National Arboretum in Washington, DC.

Don’t get me wrong, this woman had spent a significant amount of her life working the land and had amassed a collection of many beautiful and unique flowers, plants, shrubs, bushes, trees, vines…did I leave anything out?  My wife and I appreciated the hard work.  We moved into our new home in late May with much of our newly acquired foliation already sprouting forth in glory.

Unfortunately, the glory soon faded.  We quickly came to the following conclusion:  this wonderful gardener, although very talented and very ambitious, had never really developed a good plan.  Either that, or she had outgrown her quest to farm every living thing the color of green a very long time ago.  Welcome to the jungle.

Many companies trying to incorporate lean into their own ‘fields’ of expertise find themselves in a similar situation.  This often occurs when one or more well-intentioned individuals decides to strike out on their own with little or no support from top management and poor planning. Pockets of lean can be grown successfully in such cases; however, sustaining long-term gains usually proves difficult.

Another common error which causes frustration during lean implementation is aiming for too much real estate to be cultivated at one time.  Companies are frequently misled into thinking it’s better to jump in all the way, rather than ‘waste time’ trying to start small.  If support is limited, better results are achieved by choosing one or two key strategic areas and planting deep lean roots before expanding into other opportunities.

One big misconception that many folks have regarding the strategy of starting small, is the argument that resources involved will not see enough success to remain engaged.  In my opinion, this again shows lack of proper planning.  With current resource constraints being held very tightly, most companies are not in any position to pursue large-scale lean initiatives.  The key to winning in today’s climate, is to implement quickly and effectively…with a plan to free up resources to join future lean efforts. Good planning leads to success.  Success, growing in the right culture, keeps everyone engaged and helps lighten the load.

What about your business?  With resource levels where they are…is the plot too large to keep the weeds out?  What’s the current plan regarding growing lean?

About Steve Martin - theThinkShack

Hey there...I'm Steve. I built theThinkShack...a virtual hideaway about Lean Thinking and how it Connects to Everyday Life.
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2 Responses to Lean Gardening – Planning Out Your Plot

  1. Matt Wrye says:

    I like the analogy to having the vines go everywhere. If you try to tackle to much then the lean vines are everywhere but nothing is blooming. I agree that we should focus our efforts when starting lean in an organization. Start with what we can control. When successes start to mount, you will get attention. The key is using the attention you are getting to help foster bigger ideas that reach more broadly up and down stream. More and more successes will cause lean to grow organically. Then lean will be blooming all year round………..and not just here and there where it can wither and die.

    • Vines make a great connection to lean. They can look magnificent hanging down from a stonewall or clinging to the sides of a castle; however, they can also choke out plants and trees (lean initiatives) around them. Important to growing vines…have a strong under-structure to support them and keep them from doing damage.

      I like your mention of growing lean organically…can’t believe I missed the connection! Thanks Matt.

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