Our work at Lean Smarts brings us into contact with many companies interested in or practicing 2 Second Lean, authored by Paul Akers. The book presents lean in a wonderfully fun and simple way, which you can read about here in our summary of the FastCap operating system. You can also contact Paul with any lean questions you have at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Voxer/WhatsApp at 360-941-3748 (he prefers Voxer or WhatsApp).
In this post we want to summarize and share from our own observation the top three challenges faced by 2 Second Lean companies.
It’s our hope that by identifying these challenges we can overcome them together and make “becoming lean” easier for everyone involved.
#1 No One Said That Lean Was Easy
Ironically, even though our goal is to make lean easier, the truth is that it is quite hard!
2 Second Lean is a beautiful and simple operating system. But just because the model is beautiful and simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy for companies to pick it up and run with it.
Lean has never been a business tool or philosophy that works with incomplete buy-in. 2 Second Lean is no different—you still have to be all-in with your head, heart, and hands to get it working for you.
Paul Akers has left behind quite a legacy already online, in conferences, and on social media. There are hundreds of 2 Second Lean videos on YouTube and Fastcap’s website. He made the book completely free and available for anyone who wants it to read it (or listen to it on audiobook). And if you’re lucky enough to live close to another company of 2 Second Lean maniacs on Paul’s “lean hub” you can go visit them in person and see it for yourself.
But still, with all this generosity and the free materials, it can still be challenging for companies to figure it out and “become lean.”
(This is not to say that there aren’t some incredible and even tear-jerking success stories. Just check out Cambridge Engineering’s Lean Journey video on YouTube to see what I mean).
One CEO of a prominent 2 Second Lean company told me that, “Many people have read Paul’s book, but very few have been converted.”
So our first observation to share with you about this movement is this:
Just because 2 Second Lean is beautiful, simple, and captivating doesn’t mean that it’s cheap or easy.
It’s still going to cost all of you to make the jump and create a lean culture. You’ve got to be fully bought-into what you’re doing.
#2 Successful Companies Aren’t Doing It Alone
Our second observation has to do with community. It appears that the companies that have successfully embraced 2 Second Lean didn’t do it alone. Many of the senior leaders of these companies got help from other 2 Second Lean practitioners.
Even Paul makes himself directly available via these smartphone apps for anyone in the world to seek his help.
At the same time, we’re discovering that these organic connections among businesses helping each other out aren’t so easy to establish. It’s actually the leaders who are desperate who have figured it out. They’re the ones who search for help, navigate the WhatsApp/Voxer network and find the coaching and guidance they’re looking for.
But there are many other companies who are inspired by Paul’s story, trying to figure it out, and not well-connected with this network of organizations.
This community is marked by unrelenting generosity. If you’re trying to figure out 2 Second Lean, don’t be shy. Reach out to another organization a few steps ahead of you.
#3 Variation of Practice
Our next observation has to do with variations of practice among organizations inspired by 2 Second Lean.
Although there is only one original model—the success story that began at FastCap—there has been incomplete transfer and adoption of the FastCap lean operating system by other organizations.
On one hand that’s not a problem at all. The goal of lean isn’t to copy and become FastCap anymore than it is to become Toyota. Every business has to make lean their own.
We can think of a few answers to why companies deviate from the 2 Second Lean model.
- Lost in translation. Although there’s one original book and company, other organizations that piece together Paul’s example in the book and on YouTube may walk away with differing understandings of how the 2 Second Lean model really works. After all, we’re talking about creating a lean culture, and cultures are best learned by experiencing them, not by just reading about them. These differences in practice (and results) could be explained by the model getting lost in translation.
- Blending with lean industry. The 2 Second Lean model is a subculture within a much larger lean community. The lean world is full of consultants and influencers who disagree or teach lean in different ways. Some companies practicing 2 Second Lean therefore blend the model with other lean teachings. Perhaps this is good, or perhaps it dilutes the power of Paul’s model. An easy example is 3S. Paul is a staunch advocate for 3S but some 2 Second Lean companies still practice 5S or otherwise blur the lines between the two.
- Snapshots and no motion picture. The various videos, books, and materials created by Paul and FastCap offer many snapshots into the 2 Second Lean world, but to this day there is no comprehensive and organized presentation of the model. There are no 2 Second Lean consultants—which, by the way, is somewhat of an oxymoron (2 Second Lean as presented in the book is a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach). There are also no training or guidance materials with the exception of the snapshots offered in YouTube videos and the book.
Regardless of the reasons behind the differences between companies inspired by 2 Second Lean, one thing is clear: many organizations that read the book find something very pure and compelling that causes them to continue to go back to it.
There’s something extraordinary about the simple and fun example Paul’s left us. It keeps us going back, asking new questions, and reconsidering what’s missing in our own practice.
What Next for the Future of Simple Lean?
I took the time to write this summary because we love 2 Second Lean at Lean Smarts. We actually think it’s brilliant.
In our experience the companies that truly take it to heart are healthy, engaging, and world-class, and we’re honored to know them.
Our admiration for the movement Paul started is cause for why much of what we do at Lean Smarts bears similarity with the culture and practices established at 2 Second Lean companies.
There’s a lot that can be done to make simple expressions of lean easy to implement. So we’re doing our part to teach a simple lean model that anyone can follow.
We are creating that motion picture to teach a simple lean operating system in a clear, easy, and comprehensive way.
You can learn more about it here: our Simple Lean Operating System course.