2016 Lean Management survey reveals incredible results

Lean Management Survey Results

The University of Kentucky has recently released details of a 2016 Lean Management survey that it conducted across 378 organisations, mostly US but some UK based, which is one of the most comprehensive Lean polls ever recorded. The results are eye-opening....

Lean Management Survey Results

First let's set the scene....378 organisations took part in the survey, with 75% of them claiming to have been pursuing Lean Transformation for between 1 and 10 years.

In fact over 94% of responding organisations have pursued Lean Transformation for at least some period of time, with the remaining 6% considering it.

We've split the key results into questions relating to the Organisation and those relating to the Team/Employees within it.

First we look at the Organisation itself and the responses to how well Lean has been adopted and the positive effects (or otherwise) it has had.

So let's dive in to some of the fascinating results:

Lean Management Survey results


Firstly, it would seem that of the 378 responding organisations 68% are aware they have a long way to go to achieve a Lean Culture. In the majority of cases, they accept that they are just not there yet. This is further reinforced by only 21.7% considering their organisations quite Lean or better.

What is interesting however, is that whilst the vast majority effectively acknowledged that there was a long Lean journey still ahead of them, there are green shoots of progress. Indeed, 56% responded to say that there had been improvements in overall Quality and 61% said the same about the Operational Performance.

Perhaps what these statistics are saying, is that Lean is not really being imbedded through the core of the organisation, only within certain areas of it. These are the common attributes for those companies that adopt Lean, gain some benefit but fail to underpin the crucial culture of Continuous Improvement, that is the portal to competitive advantage.

If the above assumption holds water, then perhaps the reason why these organisations are struggling to adopt a Lean foothold across their whole businesses, can be found in the next set of results:


In a previous post on our popular Linkedin VSE Company Page (click the link to read it and remember to Follow Us for more of the same), we explored the 'Crucial role of the CEO and/or Board' of an organisation have in regards to their importance of 'leading the Lean Transformation'.

'Leading' in this case involves, clarity of objectives, being visible, passionate as well as firmly involved in engaging and developing key employees. There are little or no long term benefits from Lean Management without that in place.

From this 2016 Lean Management survey....26% of organisations have chosen their Primary Lean Leader (the person who is to drive the entire Lean Transformation), as someone that is below Board level.

Worse still, a further 10% of organisations, do not even have a Primary Lean Leader!

So that's well over 130 of the 378 responding organisations, who do not have their Primary Lean Leader sat on their Board.

Talk about stuck behind the black ball before you start!

Thus, it is of no surprise to see these results and the subsequent effect on the organisation's employees.

As we have explored many times within the VSE Lean Trends Blog a truly Lean Culture and an across the board intolerance of waste, will only be achieved with full employee engagement. Which whilst not easy to achieve, is far from impossible.

In terms of this survey, 57% of responses stated either Neutral or disagreed that the Organisation has engaged its employees on their Lean Journey.

And whilst we noted earlier the Organisations have been gaining in the form of improved Quality and Operational Performance from their Lean Journey, only 39% of responses claimed that they have improved employee morale as a result of their Lean Management, meaning of course 61% of employees have the same morale as before or worse.


These results do seem to point to the classic issues and problems that organisations the world over create for themselves when adopting Lean Management. We have to be mindful, of not having access to the full statistical data and of being overly-assumptive (we don't know the full breakdown of the 378 responding organisations in terms of type, size, age etc).

However, we do have patterns. Clear patterns.

We know that over 94% of the businesses that took part have been practising Lean Management for between 1 and 10 years. We know they are seeing results from that activity.

We also know that across the Globe, at times Lean Management is criticised for delivering only short-term gains and not so often, long term benefits (through continuous improvement). There are countless examples of businesses achieving both however.

The leadership are most certainly the people who need to instigate, communicate and passionately drive a Lean Culture. However, it is the team, the employees who will successfully implement it. Or not as the case may be.

This survey screams a clear message: Of these 378 businesses, the perception from the respondees, is that 56% are enjoying delivering better Quality and 61% better Operational Performance. But in the same organisations, 57% believe that employees have not been engaged in the Lean Journey, whilst 61% believe employee morale is either the same or worse for it.

The majority of businesses involved in this Lean Survey, are looking likely to fail in achieving the ultimate goal of Lean Management: Continuous Improvement.


This survey has highlighted the requirement and importance of focussing on not just the NEED for proactive organisations to adopt Lean Management but HOW they adopt it. We consider the HOW, our competitive advantage within our own industry and the reason why our clients do not fail in their quest for Continuous Improvement. Please contact us, to find out more and how we can help you.



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