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Five key lessons in cultivating a Lean workplace culture

By Shawn Pritchard
Lean Fellow, Results Washington

Coming from a career in the military, workplace culture is an intriguing topic for me. In the military, mindset and culture saturated every aspect of our character, work and ethics. We continually worked to improve our teams, processes, equipment and ourselves. It was a culture so strong that people were willing to put themselves in harm’s way and risk their lives.

As a member of Results Washington’s fellowship program, I’ve had a chance to drill deeper into how organizations can foster a Lean culture. Here are some of the key things I’ve seen and learned:

  • Mindset and culture are embodied in action. Good intentions are important, but it’s not enough to know something or intend to change. Change only starts when people start to actually do things differently.
  • It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting. Learn and try out some Lean principles to help manage the work.
  • Leadership’s essential. Lean leaders build teams through commitment, encouragement, appreciation, recognition and vision.
  • Everyone’s a leader of self. A Lean organization relies on everyone to bring their talents, ideas and commitment. Your agency needs you. Your customers need you.
  • Lastly, a Lean culture doesn’t develop overnight. It takes purpose and intention and commitment at all levels of an organization.

It’s incredibly inspiring to see the innovative work that’s going on throughout Washington state government and beyond. It’s a journey, but we’re well on our way.

Shawn Pritchard is a member of Results Washington’s Lean fellowship program.