• Joe Rizzo. Director of the New England Lean

From Good to Great: The Importance and Impact of a Lean Assessment

The Client – THG, The Hope Group, Northborough, MA

THG was one of the first members of the then called AME New England Lean Consortium in 2013. The membership fee at that time was $4,800. At that time, membership included a free Lean Assessment.

THG requested a Lean Assessment in November of 2013. The Lean Assessment was completed on December 8, 2013. At that time, THG achieved a score of 60.2, which put them in the Lean Transition category as shown by the grading system below.

Basis for Lean = 1 to 40 Lean Transition = 41 to 80 Advanced Lean = 81 to 120

The Company requested a second Lean Assessment, slightly over five years later. The results of the Lean Assessment of March 18, 2019, showed the Company had achieved a higher rating of Advanced Lean with a score of 92.9.

This article will discuss the results of both Lean Assessments and a comparative analysis of each. The article will go on to discuss the reasons for the significant improvements that were made during that five year period.

My preferred Lean Assessment is a modified version of “The Lean Assessment, for Job Shops and Small Manufacturers”, by Joe Buys (Author), Roger Kremer (Author), Don Tapping (Editor).

The Lean Assessment was created as an improvement guide for the job shop and small manufacturer in their Lean journey. The Lean Assessment provides a baseline upon which they can improve - and most importantly also provide a reference on what to do. The Lean Assessment has thirteen categories that are further divided into sub-categories that are scored. For this Lean Assessment, eleven categories were used. Each category is scored on a scale of one to four.

An overall Lean Score is calculated which indicates where the company is on their Lean Journey.

The subsequent scores assist the company in allocating the appropriate resources in their Lean projects. Administrative areas are also referenced in this assessment. I use my customized version in the following way.

The Lean Assessment consists of six parts.

  1. The Assessor gives a Company briefing on what the Assessment is and how it is conducted

  2. The Company selects appropriate people in the organization to fill out their respective section

  3. The Assessor returns to the Company to interview the respondents for each of the eleven sections

  4. The Assessor compiles the data, completes the forms, and creates a Final Report

  5. The Assessor prepares a presentation for the Company report-out

  6. The Assessor delivers the presentation to the Company management team

The key to success with this type of Lean Assessment is the interview with each of the respondents. This gives the interviewer an understanding of the respondents view on Lean, their knowledge of Lean, and their attitude on Lean. It also gives the interviewer an opportunity to assess their interest in the Lean Assessment process by the completeness of their answers. If there are one word answers or comments, the respondent has given no thought to the question, and wants to complete the form as quickly as possible. The interview allows the interviewer to educate the respondent on what is possible when Lean is implemented or is part of the culture of the organization. The questions themselves, describe what a truly Lean organization looks like.

The categories that were used for this Lean Assessment are:

From the table above we can list the categories where the Company scored well, a score of 3.0 or better. Those Categories are:

1. Cultural Awareness 2. Visual Systems 3. Standard Work 4. Continuous Improvement 5. TPM 6. Customer Satisfaction

While there are improving opportunities in all categories, the category that is ripe for a paradigm shift or, a step-out-of-the-box solution, is the Operator Flexibility Category. This Category made the least improvement over the past five years. Progress is slow in this category as there are three separate areas of the business, each requiring different skills. Since all three areas of the business are labor intensive, it would be worthwhile to focus on this category and come up with a solution that benefits all three businesses.

Comparison to Lean Assessment of 12/6/13

The Company requested the Lean Assessment in part to see where they were on their Lean Journey and partly to see how much progress they made since the last Lean Assessment. In short, the Company made significant progress since the last Lean Assessment.

Every category improved, with a slight decrease in the Supply Chain Category. Categories showing the greatest improvements were:

  • Standard Work

  • Visual Systems

  • Cultural Awareness

  • Systems Engineering

  • Continuous Improvement

  • Error Proofing

Finally, the true measure of improvement would be the Lean Score. This is the total points achieved in a category as a percentage of the total points available. A score was calculated for each category. The sum of the Lean Scores indicates where the Company is on its Lean Journey.

The results of the Lean Assessment of December 8, 2013, showed the Company was in the middle of a Lean Transition with a Lean Score of 60.2.

The results of the Lean Assessment of March 18, 2019, showed the Company had advanced to the higher rating of Advanced Lean with a score of 92.9.

See below.

So, what does the company attribute to the improvement? Jerry Lamothe, Quality Director and Lean Champion at THG offers the following.

1. Having a Lean Champion There is a need for a passionate Lean Champion who creates and articulates a vision for continued improvement and who is involved in implementation activities, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the team. The Lean Champion is one who constantly surveys the landscape and adjusts the message or the means to accommodate the pace of team learning or team acceptance. Jerry Lamothe was hired as the Quality Director, but soon became the Lean Champion for THG.

2. Accountability As part of the process to create a Culture of Continuous improvement, there is a need to develop Process Owners as Lean leaders, and to coach them and share the cultural vision with them. It is important to set their expectations for their area of responsibility, including process definition, employee training, performance measurement and actions management, and the continuous improvement of the process.

3. Senior Leadership engagement Senior Leaders must actively participate in CI meetings. They should not be observers but action-takers. In everyday activities they should be asking the right questions using the relatable language of Lean (Where’s the waste? What’s today’s improvement?)

4. Employee engagement The Management Team must show employees how to participate on many levels and how to think through and promote their suggestions. The Management Team should remove the fear of action ownership, provide them boundary guidelines and grant permission to implement “just do it” solutions, and have them participate in process analysis and experimentation leading to improvements. Also, we expanded our Strategic Planning team to include team members from deeper in the organization. This enabled exposure to them to understand the process and business challenges, and provided them a voice and contributions into the process.

5. Continued growth Stay ahead of the culture, and when concepts and behaviors become routine, raise the bar by introducing the next growth topic. This needs to be planned so the lessons are progressive and logical in order to make it feel like growth, and not the tools de-jour. When a new situation presents itself that requires a different solution, the right tools would be applied to the event that warrants them, whether the team is ready for it or not. This would be led by QA and we would take advantage of the opportunity to introduce something new.

6. Cross-functional process development Support the internal customer-supplier dependencies and needs. Each functional group has an on-line Excel Workbook, customized to the operation, which is used to track and manage events and actions. It is accessible to all employees for data entry only. Likewise, each area has a “Center of Excellence” board upon which metric results are posted. Through the introduction and posting of performance metrics as the foundation for weekly cross-functional CI meetings, the team more readily sees the results and impact of their efforts. The team discussions, therefore, are fact-based and resolution-focused. This awareness engages them on a deeper, more meaningful level, and has resulted in their coming to the “What if we…” kind of thinking.

When Randy Roy, Director of Operations first joined the New England Lean Consortium, he told me that he was joining the Lean Consortium in order to maintain a focus on Lean. Often times, companies are distracted by changing customer demands, a surge in business, a host of manufacturing problems and other business issues, and their Continuous Improvement Program suffers as a result. For the past six years, THG has been a member of the New England Lean Consortium, which has helped THG focus on Lean and the improvements that it brings.

Through the Lean Assessments, five years apart, the Company has been able to go “From Good to Great”. I am confident the Company will continue on this path and in a few years, should conduct another Lean Assessment. My prediction is the score will be even higher than the Lean Score of 2019.


If you are interested in a Lean Assessment for your organization, please contact Joe Rizzo via email

or phone. 207-400-4403