Posted by: Knightbird | October 15, 2010

Customizing vs. One Size Fits All

A guest to Chugachmiut looked at one of our Kaizen in process and was impressed with it. She was aware of similar processes in other organizations, and asked if we would share the work we are doing. I am always happy to share our Lean Management culture with anyone who will listen. However, I had to caution her about taking  our solution to someone else’s problems. If the employee’s are not allowed to analyze and improve their processes, as they exist for their customers, their organization, their employees and their space, but are expected to adopt someone else’s solution, it’s still command and control management.

First of all, every workplace has a different staffing pattern and skill sets designed to meet what they perceive their needs to be. And they have their own space needs, existing equipment and established patterns and processes. Our solutions will not work for other organizations. Our ideas on how they can pursue their own solutions will work, however.

We see examples of One Size Fits All thinking frequently. Our health care team participated in a rather lengthy exercise lead by consultants and patterned on some innovative thinking. The exercise was a mixed blessing. We participated, learned, adopted the innovative thinking, but did not gain the significant improvement that was expected of all participants. The reason? We had already adopted Lean Healthcare, and our solution was Customized versus the One Size Fits All.

We prefer Customizing our solutions, using our employees, who focused on our customers. Today every customer is seen on the day they want to be seen. Their journey through the clinic is quick, but chock full of service. Our providers have time to see our patients and get to know them. Our patient satisfaction is increasing. Our staff is happier because many of the obstacles and obstructions they used to encounter are becoming minimized through their active participation.

Customizing is the lean way.



  1. Considering the news reports about lean at Starbucks (or at least how lean is being portrayed in the WSJ), I wish they were following your philosophy.

    It all sounds very top-down one-size-fits-all at Starbucks, so of course that won’t work as well and of course that will upset people.

  2. Mark’s RT of your blog brought me here to read it. I see the one-size-fits-all too much in the industrial companies I work with where they take a good concept and try to implement it exactly the same way in all locations… You end up with people going through the motions instead of making it uniquely appropriate to each location. Most of that comes from, I believe, an unwillingness to relinquish “control” to the local facilities. Control=power to some folks, and they don’t want to give up what they perceive to be their power.

  3. One of the issues that ThedaCare has worked on is the idea of how to best spread lean innovations in one nursing unit to another.

    Their idea is certainly not “one size fits all” – the first unit’s new process is the starting point for the process in the 2nd unit – they can customize the work or continue to improve and THAT gets shared back with the 1st unit. Continuous continuous improvement, not a one-time improvement that’s “rolled out”.

    Toyota tours have shown me the same thing — the new factories are expected to innovate, not just copy, and then share with the older factories.

    That seems like the healthy approach.

    “Roll out” seems faster and more logical (“why reinvent the wheel?”) but people feel “rolled over” — as might be the case at Starbucks.

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