Personal Lean Leadership

Personal Lean Leadership Hero

Lean, and continuous improvement in general, isn’t just for the professional world. The tools can also be used to clean your garage (5S), organize your pantry (kanban), set direction (hoshin), or reduce the time it takes to make toast in the morning (seven wastes). But, just as in organizational environments, lean applied to yourself is far more than just a set of tools and potentially far more impactful than simply cleaning the garage.

This new Personal Lean Leadership Resource Page can help guide you on applying lean to leading yourself. Below you will find several videos, podcasts, blog posts, and books to further support your journey.

Personal Lean Leadership Why Graphic Cropped

Start with Why

Many of us want to lose ten pounds, have more free time to spend with friends and family, and have a garage that has room for at least one car. But why? We need to take a step back and understand why those goals are important, and when we do so we may realize that the superficial goal, or metric, doesn’t reflect and align with what we really want to accomplish.

Understanding the Why requires some intentional reflection. Intentional because effective reflection is a process itself, with preparation of questions, environment, and desired outcomes. Many people schedule a few days at regular intervals to be alone, without distraction, just to reflect. Many of us enjoy daily walks to reinforce the reflection, either alone or with a significant other.

What principles are important to you? What are you happy with, physically, mentally, socially, and professionally, and what would you like to improve? Why? Be honest with yourself - and forgiving. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and authentic. You can’t change the past, though you can learn from it. Just commit to moving forward and improving.

Now rethink your original goals. Is it really to “lose ten pounds”? Or is it to “remain physically fit into old age in order to enjoy family and travel”? Is it really to “clean the garage” or to “remove non-value-adding items to allow for a smaller future retirement home”? That perspective will change what you do to achieve the goal, and how you measure it.

Keep a journal of your thoughts, ideas, and progress. Writing is a powerful component of thinking and reflection.

Define the Desired Long-Term Future State

Earlier while reflecting on the “why” you took a deeper look at long-term goals. Now take some time to really define what this looks like. What does the future state look like in terms of yourself, your relationships, and professionally? The more you can define exactly what this looks like, the easier it will be to make changes to improve toward it. Write this down.


With the ultimate direction and long-term future state defined we can now use the kata improvement process to run experiments that iterate toward that state.

  1. What is the tar­get condition?
  2. What is the cur­rent condition?
  3. What obsta­cles are pre­vent­ing you from reach­ing the tar­get con­di­tion, and which will you address now?
  4. What exper­i­ment will you run to take the next step? What do you expect will hap­pen? What lean and con­tin­u­ous improve­ment tools can be used with the experiment?
  5. How quick­ly can we see what hap­pened from that experiment?

Reflect on what happened versus what you expected to happen. What was the difference and what caused it? What will your next experiment be? This reflection creates learning. Continue to run kata experiments to move toward the target condition while learning more about yourself.

Keep notes in your journal on your experiments and reflection. Or even consider using your own personal A3.


Culture of Kaizen: Leading Yourself

Dan Markovitz: A Factory of One

Matthew May: The Laws of Subtraction

Fireblast Global: Personal Improvement

Culture of Kaizen: Continuously Improving Habits

TWI Job Relations: Personal Use of JR


Building the Habit of Excellence with James Clear

How to Reflect on Lessons Learned with Brian Buck

How to Be Resilient with Ria Story

Embracing the Fear of Failure with Ron Pereira

Lessons Learned in the Mud with Steve Kane

How to Use Lean and Zen to Become a Better Leader with Kevin Meyer

How to Survive with Matt May

How to Improve Your Health with Lean with Paul Akers

The Courage to Lead with Simon Sinek

Making Mistakes with Mike Grogan

Applying Lean Thinking at Home to Improve Your Family's Way of Life with Joel Gross

For more great Gemba Academy podcasts, visit