Tip-toeing Toward Lean: The Pilot Project

In our series, Barriers to Lean, we discuss some ways to overcome objections to Lean reforms. One way is a small pilot project.

The Pitch: 

Say you have a manager who is unconvinced about the need for Lean. Offer to do one small-scale project to show that it can create real positive change in your workplace. With very little investment in time or resources, you can illustrate how Lean can be used to improve operations.

Alternately, if you are a manager dealing with employees resistant to change, a pilot project will reduce their apprehension and show them how Lean can make their life easier.

Examples of Pilot Projects: 

Once you have their support for a small implementation, what could you do?

  1. Apply 5S to a workstation. Make sure it is a highly visible location so that everyone can see the improvements as they are being made. 5S is a pretty straightforward system, easy to grasp and people will see the difference. To learn how to apply 5S at your workstation, check out our course here.
  2. Implement a Kanban system for ordering new supplies. Simply place a Kanban with all the order information near the end of your supply (see picture), whether it is printer paper, cleaning detergent or receipt tape. Learn how to implement this in your office environment with our Lean Office course.
  3. Time and document one operation from start to finish. People tend to get a little nervous whenever stop watchs are involved so time one of your own operations. Simply the process of documenting all the steps involved in one operation can open your eyes to potential waste. For more information on this, check out our Time and Motion Study series.


Make sure to take measurements before and after the pilot project. How much time did the pilot project save? What does that mean in terms of dollars saved? Take before and after pictures to show what a difference Lean makes.


Don’t be shy about your accomplishments. Let people know, not just the management but everyone at your organization. Feature your improvements in the company newsletter and talk it up at the water cooler. For full implementation, you are going to need the support of everyone in your organization, don’t let Lean be a surprise.

Next Steps: 

After your successful pilot project, it is time to bring in some training. Use üttana to begin training everyone on Lean.

With the right pilot project, you can turn Lean nay-sayers into converts. Feel free to share your success stories in the comments below or email me by clicking here.

June 8, 2015

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