The Dos and Don’ts of Selecting the Right Projects for Lean Transformation

As a change agent driving Lean transformation, it’s not enough to just have the technical skills. A change agent must also be fully aware of what nurtures and derails a Lean transformation.

For one, change agents must know that a successful Lean transformation requires the right context. Many times, such Lean initiatives fail because ill-selected projects do not end up producing the desired business results. I am often baffled when I see practitioners pick projects mindlessly, only to regret their decisions later when the expected results do not trickle in.

Selecting Appropriate Projects for Lean Improvement

A project is particularly suitable for Lean improvement if it meets at least one of the following requirements:

  • Targets end-to-end processes that will impact strategic business objectives and outcomes
  • Targets processes mired in complexity and needing simplification
  • Targets processes associated with customer issues and complaints
  • Targets high cost processes that consume more resources than required
  • Targets business units where there are problems around manpower productivity
  • Enhances core-competencies for the business
  • Helps in improving the top line/bottom-line of the business
  • Improves the competitive position of the business
  • Helps to install processes and process thinking

Projects to Avoid for Lean Improvement

A project is not suitable for Lean improvement if it has any one of the following:

  • Targets a business undergoing major change
  • Targets a process that is undergoing a transition
  • Will not impact key business objectives and results
  • Targets a process that is broken and not end-to-end
  • Does not have a senior leader willing to sponsor it
  • Will compete with many other change initiatives for resources
  • Does not have an assured guarantee that its Sponsor/business leader will spend time reviewing its progress
  • Does not have an assured guarantee that its process teams will invest the time in the project
  • Will have a Sponsor who will maintain a hands-off approach during its deployment
  • Will only be completed to manage internal politics or settle internal scores
  • Already has a known solution
  • Has a problem that is too big
  • Is expected to produce vague results


In sum, it’s obvious that for companies to see desired business results through the initiation of Lean improvements, they must judiciously select their projects. Companies that establish well defined criteria for selecting projects — and religiously abide by these criteria — will decrease the likelihood of failed improvement efforts.

I look forward to reading how your organization is addressing project selection…