7 Traits of High-Performing Lean Teams

lean teams

Enjoy this excerpt from the Lean Business Report. Download the full report here.

In the Lean Business Survey, we learned that even teams just getting started with Lean were seeing results — 88% of respondents who self-identified as “beginner” reported moderate to significant improvement in project success. But what happens when teams hit their stride?

High-performing Lean teams differentiate themselves through their focus, communication, and sustainably fast pace. They think, plan, and work like a system. They optimize for agility, speed, and value delivery, so they can respond to challenges, both internal and external, without wavering in their vision or momentum.

We wanted to know how they got there — so we dug deep into more than 3,000 survey responses from executives, consultants, and team members to understand what habits, methods, and motivators make a Lean team great.

7 Traits of High-Performing Lean Teams

These are the seven traits that high-performing Lean teams have in common.

They Don’t Let Lack of Lean Experience Stop Them

88% of Lean teams who self-identified as “beginner” reported moderate to significant improvements in project success. That number grows over time, reaching nearly 100% as teams reach a mature stage.

They Have an Executive Champion

69% of high-performing Lean teams said executive sponsorship was the most helpful tactic for their success, followed by consistent practices and a common tool across teams.

Their Lean Journeys are Unique

Some high-performing Lean teams are founded as part of Lean organizations, while others are leading Lean adoption in their organizations. Our data shows that any path to adoption can lead to success, as long as the team is committed to implementing Lean.

They Have a Dedicated Lean Team/Position

Although not essential, about half of high-performing Lean teams have either a team or position dedicated to advancing Lean transformation and performance.

They Use Power Tools

High-performing Lean teams employ a variety of tools with a comprehensive approach. It’s the combination of the tools, used effectively and appropriately, that makes high-performing Lean teams so successful.

They’re Laser-Focused on Flow

When asked about their Lean priorities, high-performing teams made it clear that they were focused on improving flow. Compared to low-performing teams, they were significantly more likely to prioritize goals related to flow, such as increased team productivity, more efficient processes, and better change management.

They’re Metrics-Obsessed

High-performing Lean teams measure a variety of metrics. When analyzed appropriately, these metrics allow teams to paint a holistic picture of their current and past performance, helping them make targeted improvements.

Read the full Lean Business Report here.

About the Lean Business Report

In September 2015, we launched the inaugural Lean Business Survey to gauge the adoption of Lean across all disciplines of knowledge work. The Lean Business Report combines our exclusive survey research with educational content from thought leaders in the Lean for business space. Between September and November 2015, we received more than 3,000 responses from executives, consultants, and team members representing a variety of industries and hailing from 75 countries.

Recommended Reading

To learn more about the practices of advanced Lean teams, we recommend these excellent resources:

Maja Majewski

Maja is a content and social media marketer at LeanKit, where she creates tools to help teams grow in their practice of Lean and Kanban. She is passionate about process improvement, personal growth, and food. Connect with Maja on LinkedIn.