Create Great Lean Workplaces – with David Veech


For this episode of the Tom on Leadership podcast, I interviewed David Veech, author of the new book Leadersights, on his insights into how we can better create great Lean workplaces when we understand how adults learn.

This is an obvious idea — Lean experts all insist that Lean is really about creating learning organizations — yet I’ve never before encountered a Lean expert who had done the work to connect Lean with the principles of adult education.

That’s what makes his book so unique and helpful.


At the core of adult learning is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a belief in one’s ability to succeed at a given task.

The recipe for growing self-efficacy is identical to the recipe for anchoring Lean in the workplace.

That’s huge.

Most organizations that try to embrace Lean, struggle or fail. Maybe 10% of firms succeed.


I believe it’s because most organizations focus on tools and techniques, not human factors like psychological safety, trust, and curiosity. The closest they get is, Lean tool-heads who recite the mantra “respect for people” but who cannot operationalize that.

Tell the tool-heads that you’re having trouble with Lean, and they’ll scornfully tell you “you’re doing it wrong.” Not helpful.

David’s take on “Leader Standardized Work” is the most insightful take I’ve ever heard (listen for it at the 20 minute mark). And his proposal for a Simple Circle System as a visual feedback mechanism for leaders is thought provoking. I’ll write about both in a longer article another day.

If you only listen to one Lean or servant-leader podcast this year, make it this one. And keep an eye out for more from David Veech — I predict he’ll be central to making Lean adoption move from 10% to 90% success.

About David Veech

David Veech thinks that work should be fun, exciting, challenging, and interesting, and knows that it is leaders who make or break this kind of workplace.

He has been helping people improve their operations for over 18 years through teaching, coaching, and consulting.

David serves on the faculty of the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University as a Senior Lecturer, teaching in the Master of Business Operational Excellence Program and designing and delivering executive education programs. David joined the Ohio State University in 2013 after serving as Executive Director of the Institute for Lean Systems (ILS) for seven years, coaching and consulting with clients in a wide range of industries. He retains a strategic partnership with ILS and is a senior consultant with Honsha.

David was on the faculty in the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky from 2001 to 2006, where he served as lecturer and manager of the University’s Lean Certification Programs. He joined the University of Kentucky after retiring from a 20-year career in the US Army in 2001. He ended his Army career teaching lean systems in production, quality, and manufacturing at the Defense Acquisition University.

David’s book Leadersights can be found here.

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