How to Implement LEAN While Retaining Creative Minds


As the crisis hits harder, a frequent response is often optimization and rationalization. Depending on the gap between the implementing organization and it’s peers, the impact on the processes varies. The challenge is how to implement the mindset of LEAN, while maintaining organizational creativity and flexibility.

Knowledge workers are often reluctant to follow strict processes, rather see these as restraining factors on their ability to be creative and in control of their work. The results are likely to be either a less innovative, creative organization or increased atrition rates thus loss of valuable knowledge.

Understanding the underlying principles of the innovation management process, and matching this insight to both the LEAN project and the needs of the knowledge workers, companies can implement an holistic innovation management process that permits creativity and variability in the fuzzy front, where processes are not linear nor predictable, and strict process adherence later in the innovation management process, when processes becomes predictable and often organized into projects.

The two mindsets can co-exist if the innovation management process is perceived as Scott Anthony labels: the train schedule. This concept implies that the innovation process is planned with the same rigor as a train schedule i.e. projects are launched at planned intervals. Their content may vary depending on the maturity of an idea, but the “train leaves none the less the station” on time.

This concept permits controlled chaos in the phases before “train departure” this addressing the needs of the knowledge workers, while enforcing a no tolerance for variability once the “train” has departed this adhering to the principles of LEAN.

Question: How have you balanced the needs of knowledge workers when implement LEAN in your organization?

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