Are YOU lean? – The Lean Driving Test

Lean Awareness in Driving


Transforming to Agile and Lean is far beyond changes in methods and processes. It’s equally, if not more, about changes in behavior and culture. A  organizational change or process change is not enough, changes in our self as individuals needs to happen sooner or later. The culture is built on behavior by individuals.


Well, have you transformed in to a Lean behaving person?

Consider yourself as driver in one of the four cars A-D:

Driver in A:
You are driving exactly as the speed-limit prescribes. No matter if it would be possible and safe to go much faster – you stick to the plan (speed limit). You are still in command and control, a sense and adapt lean person will try to run faster as long it’s not jeopardize safety(or risking a too expensive fine).

Driver in B:
You try to use your engine’s power and the car’s brake capabilities as much as possible. Your go as fast as possible in every second, you try to stick as close as possible to the bumper of the car in front of you. You will have the highest top speed (very occasionally) of all cars at the road. This feels very active and requires you to be on your toes and take active operative decisions every second. You are optimizing on resource usage. You believe pushing the most out of the engine and your brakes is equal to get to your destination as fast as possible. You are one of those that creates congestion and queues out of nothing. The risk to make the system collapse for hours due to car crashes is substantial increased . 

Driver in C:
You avoid to use the breaks. You try to push the engine just enough to leave room between you and the car in front of you so you don’t need to hit the break on the complete journey. Your car is going roughly at the same speed all the way. If the car in front of you keeps the limit, that will be your speed as well. If the car in front of you goes faster – you will. You will keep a distance just to even out the changes in speed the car in front of you might have. You know that the fastest way to get to the destination is not about speed it’s about not to break and keep all cars around you in a steady flow. You got it!

Driver in D:
You just have to rush and overtake C so you can get to the queue a bit earlier and by that gain exactly one position in the queue. You feel the urge to constantly change lanes in queues because the other one seems to go just a bit faster. Too bad all cars going to arrive later to their destinations due to traffic jams and accidents.You are sub-optimizing your own speed at expense of others. The overtake will force others to break, it builds queues, jams and accidents. All cars, including yours, will go slower (but you will arrive ahead of that lazy D-driver). Changing lanes (like moving work from one queue to another) will only increase the queuing time.   

– Are you a Lean behaving driver?

About Johan (Welund) Westerlund

Coach, Mentor and Trainer of Teams, Leaders and Organizations in Lean/Agile Values, Principles, Methods and Tools. Founder of Uniqa Team AB
This entry was posted in Agile Thinking, assessment, awareness, Fun, Leadership, Lean, Organizaition, Processes, Risk Management, Transformation, Way if Working and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Are YOU lean? – The Lean Driving Test

  1. Damir says:

    Very interesting methaforical approach Johan! Optimizing the flow is one if not THE key paradigms to shift towards real Lean thinking. I cannot agree more that agile and lean adoption is a smaller (and perhaps much easier) part to accept and change. Behavior and culture is the real transformation towards Lean org.

  2. Mattias says:

    I also think Lean includes taking care of our environment (real system thinking, end-2-end), so I miss the bicycle alternative! 😉

  3. Anonymous says:

    Like it. Very interesting 

    Just wonder, do I still “get it” if I am a C-driver but car in front of me is an A-driver (or maybe a B or D-deriver)?

    • Johan (Welund) Westerlund says:

      Yes, it’s probably the most typical case. Being a C driver is like being an equalizer, making the flow to improve. If there are enough C-drivers the queue will be gone.

      There is also a risk you end up as a frustrated C-driver that starts writing blog posts about it 😉

  4. C. says:

    I love this metaphor – in the car I am a C… at work unfortunately more of a B even though I am preaching this!

  5. Uffe says:

    One key ingredient of LEAN is to learn from current results and do better tomorrow, and in that process be innovative and open minded. With only four well defined driving profiles, this aspect is totally missed in this metaphor. A number of other other aspects are also missed, all may not be sharing the same goal for instance.
    Personally I am very lean in this metaphor, I have tried driving, I have tried public transportation and last couple of years I am driving my motorcycle to work whenever weather permits, thereby creating my own lane when needed. However, it its time to re-evaluate public transportation due to roadwork causing the congested roads to be very narrow.

    • Johan (Welund) Westerlund says:

      Thanks for your thoughts,
      Sure you can expand the metaphor further. There are several Lean ingredients that are important and finally I hope we can master them all. Perhaps you have a story around learning to share?
      This metaphor is about the flow aspect and somewhat about system thinking in Lean. Just because you are excellent in learning and trying other ways don’t necessary means you act flow oriented and value based in your new ways. Swapping the car for a motor cycle might be seen as a sub-optimization for your travel time.

      To continue the metaphor you can see it on different levels. From the drivers point of view (where I claim we all benefit from not trying to go as fast as possible) or from a “traveler-to-work”-point of view where changing transportation might be the right learning. Or from an environmental point of view where the bicycle or work-from-home-approach is the right way. The system we are optimizing towards differ. I believe we can act more or less “Lean” within all those systems.


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