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Top 25 Quotes For Lean Business Inspiration

by Joe Aherne

Home » Resources » Blog » Top 25 Quotes For Lean Business Inspiration

Lean quotes carry motivational and powerful messages that can inspire Lean teams in their pursuit of continuous improvement. Concise, thought-provoking statements encapsulate the essence of Lean principles and guide organisations striving to eliminate waste, optimise processes, and enhance overall efficiency. 

Lean quotes often emphasise the importance of teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. They encourage Lean teams to challenge the status quo, embrace change, and focus on delivering value to customers. They’re reminders of the Lean philosophy and its core principles, inspiring teams to think creatively, take ownership of their work, and constantly seek opportunities for improvement. 

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your Lean team or need a reminder about why this philosophy matters, here are 25 Lean quotes and phrases by industry leaders:

What is a Lean Team?

A Lean team refers to a small, agile group of individuals working together to accomplish a specific task or project. This concept originated from Lean management principles and is commonly used in various industries. A Lean team:

  • Usually ranges from 3 to 10 individuals.
  • Prioritises efficiency, effectiveness, and speed in their operations.
  • Is cross-functional, possessing diverse skills and expertise.
  • Embraces flexibility and adaptability.
  • Emphasises continuous improvement, constantly seeking ways to optimise processes and eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Values transparency and accountability, ensuring that each team member is responsible for their contributions.
  • Fosters a culture of empowerment, encouraging members to take ownership and make decisions at their level.
  • Excels in fast-paced environments where quick decision-making and rapid execution are crucial.

Top 25 Lean Quotes

Applying a Lean model to your business is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be in it for the long haul. Although the odds are favourable that you will continually see improvement and results, there may be times when you feel burnt out. From renowned thought leaders to industry experts, these quotes will inspire you to adopt a Lean mindset, optimise processes, and drive meaningful change. Explore our collection and let these quotes ignite your passion for Lean thinking and its transformative power.

  1. “There are so many men who can figure costs, and so few who can measure values.” — Author Unknown

Key Takeaway: In Lean thinking, it is crucial to focus on value rather than solely on costs. By measuring values, organisations can identify areas of improvement, reduce waste, and enhance customer satisfaction.

  1. “A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of those changes is transformation.”  — Andrew Grove

Key Takeaway: By recognizing the need for transformation and embracing change, corporations can remain agile, innovative, and responsive to the evolving needs of their stakeholders.

  1. “The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.” — Shigeo Shingo

Key Takeaway: By proactively identifying and addressing waste, organisations can unlock opportunities for improvement and optimise their processes.

  1. “Your lean process should be a lean process.” — Author Unknown

Key Takeaway: This quote may seem repetitive, but it actually emphasises a key principle in Lean thinking, which is the idea of applying Lean principles to the Lean process itself.

  1. “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” — Peter F. Drucker

Key Takeaway: Performing a task efficiently is meaningless if it is unnecessary or adds no value. In the context of Lean thinking, this quote aligns with the principle of eliminating waste.

  1. “Continuous improvement is not about the things you do well — that’s work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that’s what continuous improvement is all about.” — Bruce Hamilton

Key Takeaway: In Lean philosophy, continuous improvement, also known as kaizen, is a fundamental principle. It encourages organizations to seek opportunities for improvement, make incremental changes, and drive ongoing enhancements to their operations.

  1. “If you need a new process and don’t install it, you pay for it without getting it.” — Ken Stork

Key Takeaway: Implementing a new process allows the organisation to benefit from the improvements it was designed to provide, mitigate costs associated with inefficiencies, and capitalise on opportunities for growth and optimization.

  1. “Everything can be improved.” — Clarence W. Barron

Key Takeaway: This quote captures the essence of continuous improvement and the belief that there is always room for improvement in any aspect of life or work.

  1. “Willful waste brings woeful want.” — Thomas Fuller

Key Takeaway: If individuals or organisations engage in wasteful behaviours, such as unnecessary consumption, inefficient processes, or misuse of resources, they are likely to face negative repercussions in the long run.

  1. “There are many experts on how things have been done up to now. If you think something could use a little improvement, you are the expert.”— Robert Brault

Key Takeaway: This quote encourages individuals to embrace their own expertise and take the initiative to improve processes, systems, or situations. By doing so, they become agents of change and contribute to the advancement and betterment of their respective fields.

  1. “Amateurs work until they get it right. Professionals work until they can’t get it wrong.”— Author Unknown

Key Takeaway: This quote emphasises the importance of striving for excellence and mastery in Lean practices. It highlights the key difference between amateurs and professionals in their approach to work. While amateurs may stop once they achieve a satisfactory outcome, professionals, on the other hand, continue to refine their skills and processes until they reach a level where mistakes become unlikely.

  1. “It is not the employer who pays the wages. He only handles the money. It is the product that pays the wages.”— Henry Ford

Key Takeaway: In the lean philosophy, the focus is on delivering value to the customer through efficient and effective processes. By prioritising the quality and value of the product, organisations can generate revenue and sustain the employment of their workforce. This quote serves as a reminder that a successful business depends on providing value to customers, which, in turn, supports the livelihood of employees.

  1. “Nature does constant value stream mapping — it’s called evolution.” — Carrie Latet

Key Takeaway: This quote draws an analogy between value stream mapping, a key concept in Lean methodology, and the natural process of evolution. It highlights the notion that nature inherently performs value stream mapping by continuously adapting and optimising to survive and thrive.

  1. “Don’t waste time learning the ‘tricks of the trade.’ Instead, learn the trade.”— James Charlton

Key Takeaway: This emphasises the value of deep learning and a comprehensive understanding of the trade, which ultimately leads to long-term success and expertise.

  1. “Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage. The easiest of all wastes and the hardest to correct is the waste of time, because wasted time does not litter the floor like wasted material.”— Henry Ford

Key Takeaway: While material waste can often be salvaged or repurposed, time waste is irrecoverable. Ford emphasises that wasting time is the easiest form of waste but also the most challenging to address.

  1. “Waste is a tax on the whole people.”— Albert W. Atwood

Key Takeaway: By recognizing waste as a tax, it emphasises the negative consequences that inefficiency, poor resource utilisation, and unnecessary processes have on the broader community.

  1. “When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.”— Anthony J. D’Angelo

Key Takeaway: This encourages a thorough and thoughtful approach to problem-solving. Instead of merely addressing the superficial symptoms or “leaves” of a problem, it’s important to dig  deeper to understand and tackle the root causes.

  1. “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”— W. Edwards Deming

Key Takeaway: Regardless of individual abilities, a poorly designed system can limit or undermine their efforts, leading to suboptimal results.

  1. “It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.”— Harold Geneen

Key Takeaway: In a lean context, this aligns with the principle of delivering value to the customer. It stresses the importance of translating intentions and plans into concrete actions that produce measurable results.

  1. “Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.”— Thomas A. Edison

Key Takeaway: This highlights the severity of waste and its detrimental impact. Edison suggests that waste is even worse than a mere loss because it signifies a squandering of resources that could have been utilised effectively.

  1. “Lean isn’t lean if it doesn’t involve everyone.”—  John Shook

Key Takeaway: Shook emphasises the inclusive nature of Lean principles. In a Lean organisation, every individual, regardless of their position or role, should be actively engaged in continuous improvement efforts. 

  1. “Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before.” —  Shigeo Shingo

Key Takeaway: Shingo, a renowned industrial engineer and one of the key figures behind the development of the Toyota Production System (TPS), reminds us that improvement goes beyond making minor adjustments. It calls for a mindset of continuous learning, experimentation, and a willingness to venture into unknown territories.

  1. “If we reduce batch sizes by half, we also reduce by half the time it will take to process a batch. That means we reduce queue and wait by half as well. Reduce those by half, and we reduce by about half the total time parts spend in the plant. Reduce the time parts spend in the plant and our total lead time condenses. And with faster turn-around on orders, customers get their orders faster.” —  Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Key Takeaway: The implication of this quote is that faster turnaround on orders leads to increased customer satisfaction. When customers receive their orders more quickly, it enhances their experience and demonstrates the organisation’s responsiveness and efficiency.

  1. “Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle, a cornerstone of continuous improvement. The Japanese term for continuous improvement is kaizen and is the process of making incremental improvements, no matter how small, and achieving the lean goal of eliminating all waste that adds cost without adding to value.” ― Jeffrey K. Liker

Key Takeaway: This quote highlights the significance of the PDCA Cycle as a cornerstone of continuous improvement, emphasising the Japanese concept of kaizen and the pursuit of eliminating waste to add value to the organisation’s operations.

  1. “We improve by 1% every day. In just 70 days, you’re twice as good.” —  Alan Weiss

Key Takeaway: The idea behind this quote is rooted in the concept of compounding growth. Small, incremental improvements made consistently over time can result in substantial overall improvement. Each day, striving to be just a little bit better than the day before, can lead to a compounding effect, where the gains accumulate and amplify over time.

Overall, these Lean quotes provide a valuable reminder of the core principles and philosophy behind Lean thinking. They encourage individuals and organisations to adopt a Lean mindset, embrace change, and constantly seek opportunities for growth and optimization. By internalising these messages, Lean teams can drive meaningful change, enhance efficiency, and ultimately achieve success in their pursuit of continuous improvement.

If you’ve drawn inspiration from these words and are interested in learning more about Lean and how it can improve your business, contact us at Leading Edge Group. We offer a diverse range of accredited and nationally-recognized Lean training courses at all belt levels, which can be delivered online or in-house.

Joe Aherne Photo
Joe Aherne

CEO of Leading Edge Group

Joe qualified as a Certified Public Accountant in 1982. It was a decision that reaped great benefits for Joe, providing him with an international recognized qualification which allowed him to follow in his father and grandfathers’ footsteps who had both worked and lived abroad. Having qualified as a CPA, Joe took up financial positions in the Middle East and UK.

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