The biology of Lean – crash diet or lifestyle change?


Why is it that only 4% of those who diet manage to sustain long term weight loss?  Why is it that less than 35% of business transformations succeed?  The analogy of body Vs business might offer the key to unlocking the mystery of sustaining change and particularly those improvements made through implementing lean thinking.


Businesses too have a BMI – in this case a Business Mass Index – the proportion of waste:size ratio, rather than waist:size ratio!  Usually, the larger the business, the more waste it has.  Removing this waste must however be part of a long term business lifestyle change, rather than a crash diet.  Yoyo diets are symptomatic of failed previous attempts to make changes stick, as are the various different business improvement initiatives that companies turn to as each successive one fails to deliver.


Recent reports from the National Weight Control Registry unveiled the highly effective habits of those people in the few percent that sustain weight loss:


  • Set a longer term goal of changing lifestyle – NOT losing weight
  • Be consistent and resolute
  • Focus your activities on maintaining the lifestyle


Comparing business to biology allows us to shine a spotlight on that successful 4% and learn the most important lessons for success.  Taking these criteria for success perhaps offers us a checklist that helps us to sustain change and avoid organisational homeostasis – that need or drive to slip back into the old ways of doing things.  The checklist?


  1. Set your long term objectives for sustaining the change (24-36 months)
  2. Ensure the whole organisation is aligned to the change
  3. Ensure structures, systems, resources, skills and style encourage and support the change


The Human Capital, Lean and Organisational Development expertise of The Ghost Partnership combines to make business improvement manageable, controlled and sustainable.  Like dieting, the detail of the programme will depend on each specific need, but it follows a few simple principles. 

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