Does Lean Align with a Christian Worldview?

Does Lean line up with the Bible’s teaching?
Is it consistent with the Christian Faith?
These were my questions when I first learned of Lean in 2007. I was cautious because of Lean’s origin in a NON-Christian culture. But after some initial study and thinking, the answer appeared to be “YES.” Two key elements of Lean stood out to me in those early years:

  1. Respect for People. This is the most important “core value” in Lean and the key to its success. “Respect for People” seems to me to be consistent with the 2nd great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  2. Servant Leadership. Lean Leadership is genuinely focused on “developing people” and helping them grow and succeed. This seems to me to align very well with the “Servant-Leadership” concept Jesus taught in Matthew 20:20-28. I later learned that the founders of Lean eagerly adopted the “Servant Leadership” label in business when they first heard about it.

In the years since 2007, I’ve learned a lot more about Lean. Over that time I’ve tried to apply the knowledge of Bible truth I gained in my nearly 20 years of being a full time teaching pastor. I am convinced that genuine Lean is deeply consistent with a Christian world view. Here are some more points that persuaded me:

  • Lean puts a high value on work and honors skilled craftsmanship.
    (See Genesis 2:15 where God “…took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” See Exodus 31:1-6 where God highlights the particular “craftsmanship” gifts of Bezalel, but also says, “And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded…”)
  • Lean stresses “shared prosperity.”
    If the company does well, everyone who is part of it should do well.
    (See 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 9:9 where the Old Testament command, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” is applied to both pastors and workers deserving a return for their labor. Pastors who do well at “preaching and teaching” are to receive “double honor.”)
  • Lean is built on the power of people working in teams.
    God created people with a wide variety of abilities, personalities, and talent. He intends us to work together like parts of the human body: pooling our talents and covering for one another’s weaknesses. (See 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and Romans 12:3-8. A human body consisting of many different parts working together can do many things that no individual part can achieve.)
  • Lean recognizes that people have flaws. It therefore affirms the Christian belief that humans are “fallen.” Lean systems and disciplines reduce the negative effect of those flaws and make it more likely that people will succeed in their work–especially in their work as a team. The fact that this applies with ALL people–Christians and non-Christians alike–fits the Christian doctrine of “common grace.”
  • Lean understands that leaders face particular temptations.
    The Lean systems and disciplines reduce the negative effect of leadership flaws and better enable leaders to succeed.

These are just some of the similarities I’ve seen over the years between Lean and a Christian approach to work. They convince me that Lean firmly fits with our Christian faith. I have come to believe that if Christian thinkers would carefully study the Bible and build a business approach to match Christian teaching, it would look almost exactly like Lean. Part of my mission in the marketplace is to spread this truth to Christian business owners:

If you genuinely UNDERSTAND Lean, I believe you will love it and want to apply it in your business.