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“Lean Out” This, Boeing

By Kevin Meyer

Several of us often comment, or lament, the term “lean and mean.” Real lean is definitely not mean, although we appreciate the desire of journalists and editors to create a snazzy article title… again and again.

There’s one other phrase that has been eating at me lately, and that’s “lean out.” Such as this article on none other than Boeing.

[Boeing VP of Business Strategy Mike] Bair called the Renton plant a “lean enterprise,” indicating Boeing plans to transfer the lessons learned to lean out the 737 production to Everett.

It’s unclear whether “lean out” was a term used by Mr. Bair or simply a figment of the journalistic process. In either case it is both a negative in terms of what lean is really about but also accurate in terms of how Boeing practices lean.

“Lean out” conjures the whack-a-human process that unfortunately most organizations consider to be “lean.” Truly LAME – lean as misguidedly executed – as our friend Mark likes to say. Reduce waste… including that obscene waste of excess hands... without realizing that there’s a brain connected to those hands.

That recognition of brainpower is what real lean is about. Leveraging, not minimizing, the second pillar of lean, respect for people. Leveraging the power of human experience, creativity, and knowledge.
As one comment to the article puts it,

Boeing will soon have to start hiring - they are running out of people to lay off.

Yep, that’s understanding real lean. Not.

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One Response to "“Lean Out” This, Boeing"

  • Bob Emiliani
    18 November 2009 - 12:32 pm

    I first heard the term “lean out” around 2001 by someone who worked at the Connecticut Department of Labor. It struck me as odd, though the term as I heard it was used with good intentions. I prefer to simply say “improve.”