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The 6 limits of Lean Management

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Lean management consists in improving the performance of an organization by using all available techniques: just in time, quality process, cost reduction.

Lean management consists in improving the performance of an organization by using all the techniques available: just in time, quality process, cost reduction. It aims in particular to eliminate all superfluous tasks without added value as well as waste. But misunderstood or misapplied, the lean management method dear to Toyota can lead to effects opposite to those sought.

1 – A disembodied management

In her book “Disembodied Management”, Anne-Marie Dujarier denounces the management by figures developed by gliders, “makers and distributors of devices” who “hover”. They operate away from the field. “In consulting, they are graduates from prestigious schools who have never set foot in business and spend their time manipulating algorithms. Inexperience with the material, social and existential realities of work then become a skill for this type of position.

2 – A partial application

The generalization of the Toyota method can lead to a diversion of its basic principles, often for cultural reasons, according to Philippe Lorino, a doctor in management sciences and professor at ESSEC.

For example, the hunt for waste. Often presented as an objective, is in fact only one step that comes after two others. Creating an efficient production system and creating buffers to avoid undesirable events. It is therefore advisable to limit the rate of use of production tools to 80% to be able to absorb contingencies.

3 – Risks to the health of workers

More intense work, physical over-solicitation to eliminate waiting times, pressure to manage hazards that generate stress, lack of latitude for personal decisions, less solidarity…, so many elements generated by lean expertise which would be a source of psychosocial and musculoskeletal disorders, according to INRS. The National Institute for Research and Security even denounces.  and appearance of new risks due to the physical proximity of workers’ production tools to limit their movements.

The INRS stresses, however. That “if a company is aware of these points of vigilance and adopts a global vision of performance over the long term. The implementation of a lean approach. Or certain its tools can become an opportunity to address and improve aspects of health and safety at work”.

4 – A pretext to dismiss

For some, lean management is only used to identify excess positions and flush out unnecessary personnel. Hence the use of outside consultants to implement the method. Using lean management to reduce its salaried staff would however be a mistake. It would result in a loss of confidence and a demotivation of the employees. Conclusion: it is better to use lean management “in times of peace”.

5 – Excessive pooling of functions

Applied to services, lean management can lead to the pooling of support functions in large companies. With the risk of harming the customer relationship. Especially in companies that decentralize these functions to be closer to the field.

6 – Essential support

In some companies, lean strategy can appear as a real revolution. Its implementation, without preparation, awareness, or training of employees, can lead to obstacles that are difficult to overcome. Support for change will be a key success factor.

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