My big adventure this year is working with third sector organisations in Scotland to apply Lean thinking. When I first talk to a team, not many have heard of Lean. A few can relate it to Toyota (where it started) but are not quite sure how it can be useful totheir organisation.

Learning from Geese

The people in a Lean organisation work powerfully together to deliver value to their customers and stakeholders. Good teamwork and respecting and supporting each other contribute significantly to success. Perhaps surprisingly, geese have many useful lessons to teach us about Lean teamwork.

Common purpose and direction

Geese have a clear purpose to achieve; migration. When flying in a V-formation, they are all going in the same direction to achieve this purpose. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying like this the whole flock adds at least 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

An organisation will go much faster and more easily to reach its goal if everyone has a common direction and sense of purpose. This is a core tenet of Lean thinking.

Flowing together

Geese flying together are flowing along in the most effective way they have developed together.

When an organisation is Lean their work flows along without interruption. No going backwards, or in circles, or duplicating efforts. The team are delivering value without waste in the process.

Take turns

When the goose at the front gets tired, another one rotates in.

Share the load across team members, especially in stressful roles and at busy times. A Lean technique to make this easier is to use cross-training to increase organisational agility.


Geese honk all the time when they fly like this.

We need to communicate with each other regularly about where we are, and to offer encouragement. We also need to call out when something is not right and take Lean action together to resolve the problem and ensure it does not happen again.

Support each other

If one goose is unable to fly, two teammates fall out of formation with it until it is ready to fly again.

We need to look after each other and support each other. Lean thinking is all about respect for people and looking after our physical and mental health is an important way to do this.

Would you like to apply Lean thinking in your organisation?

If you’d like to learn more about Lean thinking and how to apply it to your organisation, join me at SCVO’s introductory Deliver more value through Lean thinking course in January. The format of this course is new to SCVO, with a two-day workshop followed by six 1-1 webinar coaching sessions to help you succeed at your first Lean project. With all new skills, you will get better with practice and the coaching helps embed the learning and ensures that you and your organisation derive measurable benefit from the course.