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The LEAN loop

So in the previous post I introduced a LEAN improvement cycle (in some places called the improvement “kata”). It goes something like this:

  • Identifying a vision
  • Determining where we are now
  • Establishing where we want to be next
  • Recognising obstacles between now and next
  • Problem solving to overcome the obstacles

So lets look at how this might work. Let us use a health example, lets say you have a vision of running a marathon.

26.2 miles.


Hell, didn’t the first guy to run it, die? Pheidippides? Craziness.

Creating the vision

Usually, using this LEAN loop, the vision is unattainable. Why set something that is unattainable? Well it provides a direction in which to strive. In this case, I’m not sure setting the vision as “To hold the marathon world record” is necessarily required. But we’ll return to this later.

Where are we now?

So. How fit are you? Can you run to catch a bus? Can you run after your child? Could you run (or jog, or walk) 100m without stopping? How about 400m? a mile? Numbers are important here. When you tell your story about how you ran the marathon you’re going to want to be able to say “Do you know, before I started, I couldn’t run 75m without stopping”. More important, we’re going to measure these things, and demonstrate improvement. Both to others, and ourselves. We’ll know we’re on the right track because we can see it.

Where do we want to be next?

OK. Well assuming that our answer to the previous question was “I can jog 100m, but no further”, a sensible next intermediate goal (remember the goal is not the same as the vision) is something like jog 400m without stopping.


Right. So what’s stopping us running 400m without stopping? What’s important here is to identify underlying root causes of obstacles, not excuses.

“So, what is stopping us?”


“OK, why are we unfit?”

“Well because I haven’t run for a long time, dimwit!”

“OK, but why haven’t you run?”

“Well, I suppose I’ve been busy.”

“Ah, right, so you’ve prioritised other things over this?”

“Yeah, I guess”

“OK, so how about when we’re at home we commit to jogging (Or walking and jogging) to the nearest lamp post (or some other similar target), and we do that 5 times a week? What’s that? Two minutes there, two minutes back, two minute stretch, 5 times a week, 30 minutes TOTAL in the week. Reckon you could fit that into your week?”

“Actually, I think I could. But if I want to run a marathon don’t I need to be training much more?”

“Well this is true, but lets concentrate on the intermediate goal, running 400m without stopping. Small steps such as this are much more manageable. Once we’re able to do this, we set our current situation (Where are we now) to being able to run 400m and next the next intermediate goal as to run 800m.”

We’d love to hear from you. What vision do you have and what”s the intermediate goal you’ve set yourself on that path? What obstacles are stopping you? How are you overcoming them?

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