Fire at will!

I have been reading the excellent book On the mend about ThedaCare’s Lean journey. The authors talk about the importance of having a burning platform to drive change, since the clearest way to get someone to jump into the water is to burn the platform.

I started to think about what happens when an organization takes this concept too far and begins to torch the entire field and surrounding buildings.

Everybody thinks their platform is the one that should be lit and nobody is controlling the distribution of matches, lighters, or Molotov cocktails. Here are some of the results:

  • SMOKE FILLS AREA: Direction becomes unclear. People cannot see where they are headed.
  • PEOPLE BECOME TRAPPED: If all the surroundings are on fire, people cannot reach the water to feel a sense of accomplishment. People will become tired trying to fight all the flames and will either melt-down or burn-out.
  • THINGS DIE: Even if firefighters quickly dash in to extinguish the blaze, not everything can be saved since the fire covers a lot of ground. People, equipment, and resources such as water become scarce as many people fight the fire across such a wide area. A lot of effort is made but only ash remains.

Organizations need to work at lighting only a few platforms to get effective change for their performance. Identify your organization’s pyromaniacs to prevent them setting everything else on fire!


Keep on improving!


Brian Buck

This blog is reproduced with the permission of the author, Brian Buck, who works in Seattle, Washington, coaching organizational teams to remove waste.

It was first published on Brian’s own blog site where you can find more fascinating items concerned with all things lean.