Keep Lean Out of Innovation!

This is born out of frustration. I’ve had 10 years of Lean people telling me their tools can fix the development process or that a dedicated development approach outside of Lean is unnecessary. 

This comes from people who built office furniture, mattresses, auto roof liners, and hospital beds. That’s right… in assembled, with screwdrivers and wrenches. Not designed. None of these people ever owned the design of a single part, subsystem or entire product offering.  Not one had ever operated a CAD station, designed or tested a prototype themselves. 

Yeah, they turn around a few manufacturing plants from the stone ages, become a consultant, get some wins across multiple industries and then think their subject matter expertise applies to an ever increasing spectrum of capabilities outside of repetitive operations.

It doesn’t. It won’t. Ever. 

It doesn’t matter how much time these Lean Experts spent imagining how they can redefine the design/development process using takt, flow, and standard work. How many long, philosophical discussions they had with each other, patting themselves on the back for their siloed brilliance. Shame on them for experimenting with paying clients, figuring something out on the go, hoping to move Lean upstream from Ops. Lean-based approaches are barriers, not enablers to creativity. They’re talking about something they have no business discussing. 

We don’t need less creativity when creating something new, we need more creativity. Who cares if you’re world-class operations is making something the competitors have obsoleted?


If you’re looking for the biggest, most dramatic improvement you can make in product or service development, reject Lean. That’s right. Get away…fast. Takt will never help. Standard work is a strait jacket, and flow can be ignored. Far bigger gains come from 

A good approach like mine can do more to help your organization improve development in five days than a Lean expert can in a year.


Because my career started as a designer. I am a patent holding, mechanical engineer. I know what it’s like to deal with 1000 constraints and still come up with an elegant design. Industrial engineers and manufacturing engineers haven’t. Their course curriculum doesn’t even cover design. 

Why is a design approach a better one? I’ve studied and experience a multitude of development processes. I’ve worked with both nascent and mature teams, honing what works. There is no comparison. 

One constant is that Operational Lean is almost always an impediment for innovation. You know, the Lean based on the Toyota production system. That one. It’s bad. Really bad.

Don’t believe them and definitely don’t start there. 

One thought on “Keep Lean Out of Innovation!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *