Last updateMon, 18 Mar 2019 1pm


The Momentum Cycle: Leading the Lean Transformation

momentum_1 I have worked and taught in organizations for nearly half a century, and for at least half that time, I’ve led sessions on Lean and it its predecessors.

Over those years, I’ve observed, considered and practiced what it takes to successfully lead a Lean transformation, and I’ve often asked myself why the change seems so difficult. The answer I’ve come up with is: context.

Tools are not the problem—we have at our fingertips a complete toolbox for the implementation of Lean, garnered from many sources. Human energy is not the problem—every organization is filled with energy, more than enough to implement change.

Much of that human energy is lost to waste, and much more is dispelled because of a lack of leadership focus. We’re all trying to accomplish everything, right now. This creates big batches of things to do, which leads to not getting them all done. We all know the effect batches have on smooth manufacturing operations. It is no different with tasks or projects. A batch is a batch.

In recent years, I’ve also witnessed a trend in leadership toward employing tools without context, often creating larger batches of things to do. This is upside down from how Lean can and should work.

In this article, I make the case that the primary role of leadership is to focus the human energy of the organization, through a set of structures, supported by effective tools.

In other words, it’s not the tools or the energy by themselves. Instead, we seek two things: a comprehensive ‘primary role’ model to follow, and to provide leadership focus through that model. We need a context within which we can work. To that end, I offer you The Momentum Cycle®. I developed the cycle to fill a gap in my own learning—to improve my ability to effect change in client organizations. I’m sharing it with you as my contribution to your own personal efforts.

What It Is

The Momentum Cycle is represented by a Mobius strip, as displayed here.


The Mobius is a well-known shape, used to represent many things. I chose it as the core image for the cycle because it represents:

  1. The infinite possibilities that we and our organizations have before us
  2. The total interconnectedness of the ‘system’: local, global, universal
  3. The fact perspectives do change, must change, all along our path

However, simply having a symbol is not going to get us there. The Momentum Cycle has four interdependent parts; Leverage (yourself), Lift (organizational performance), Lead (others), and Learn (pursue useful knowledge).




Taken together, and practiced over multiple cycles, these four parts create momentum toward the transformation to Lean. As you may know, momentum is the product of mass (how much of the organization is actively engaged) and velocity (the speed at which we travel, with clear direction). In my experience with Lean transformation, building momentum is key to success. Let’s break the model into its component parts, and take a closer look.

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