The pandemic dramatically redefined our ideas about community and what being part of a community meant. Some communities were strengthened, new ones were created and some atrophied or ceased to exist. Professional organizations, religious organizations, schools, and businesses were forced to rethink how their community would connect and stay a community often without being able to meet face-to-face.  Being part of a community (“a unified body of individuals with common interests”) that prospered during this time had a significant impact on how, and how well, people coped with the overall pandemic (at least for me!).  That said, some aspects were lost without even recognizing them.

I was reminded of the power of being part of a community, specifically a Lean community of learners when I participated as a presenter and Board member at the LPPDE fall conference in October. It was the first time in a couple of years that I have been together in the same room with people to learn, share, and talk about Lean product development and how to apply it to build better teams and achieve better results.  Participating in person with my fellow board members as well as participants made me realize that I had really missed the opportunities to connect, learn, and share with others in a face-to-face setting.

From presenting to participating I was reminded over and over of the importance of being part of a robust community of Lean learners. The event reenergized me to learn from others and face the challenges that most Lean practitioners face in trying to share the tools, techniques, and thinking behind Lean with an often-skeptical audience.

Community noun (Adapted from Merriam-Webster)

1: a unified body of individuals: such as

  • the people with common interests living in a particular area broadly

  • a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society

Some key learnings I had about growing Lean in organizations and the power of a Lean community:

  • The challenge to apply Lean in the product development space still exists and, in my observation, has grown as remote work and hybrid work arrangements have grown to change how we collaborate and manage work.
  • Organizations must evolve how they share knowledge, align on priorities, manage tasks, and engage team members.
  • Fundamentally the same Lean concepts and thinking apply, BUT how they are implemented must adapt to the new workplace. This started before the pandemic but greatly accelerated in the last few years.
  • Working through these new challenges is and will continue to be difficult. Doing it without the benefit of the knowledge of others and a supportive community makes the challenge even greater.

Based on my conversations during the conference, these points are shared by many in the Lean community. This is what reminded me of what was lost during the pandemic in terms of being part of a vibrant Lean community where I can share challenges and successes and learn from others to help me advance my goals and the goals of my organization. While we have become effective at participating in virtual meetings, the ability to focus and have casual dialogue with knowledgeable peers in a face-to-face setting is difficult to match (not to mention that humans are social creatures who want this interaction!).

Take a few minutes in the next week to consider the challenges you are facing to drive Lean deeper into your organization or at your clients. Have they changed over the past few years? Have you kept up to date with the latest techniques and thinking about how to address them? Would you and your organization benefit from learning new methods? Would you be energized by the opportunity to learn from others, share your struggles, and engage experts in helping to solve your biggest challenge? My guess is that you and most people would. I encourage you to reengage with your Lean community whether it is a group of peers in your organization, a local Lean group, or an organization like LPPDE.


Whether you decide to start or reinvigorate a company community of practice or participate in a professional learning conference, now is a good time to have these conversations with your supervisor and leadership. The fall/winter is typically the time for the annual review process, setting personal and business goals for 2023, and finalizing 2023 budgets for training and travel. It is the perfect time to commit to creating or participating in a community with people of common interests (such as Lean) and build it into your goals, development plans, and budget for 2023. Being part of an active, robust community where you can share your struggles, learn from others, and be supported as you try new things will help you survive and thrive in 2023.

What do you think? Were you part of a community that helped you thrive during the pandemic? What opportunities do you see to engage in a professional community in 2023?

Do you have ideas you would like to share concerning accelerating the learning process or aligning teams towards a common understanding? If so, it would be great to hear them or your feedback on this topic.

carolyn carter LPPDE

Matt Albin

Spark Performance Solutions

Matt’s career spans over 20 years as a global business leader where he worked in new product development, project management, marketing, procurement, supply chain management and continuous improvement.  He has successfully developed people and implemented Lean practices and human-centered design methods in knowledge-based work and operations across the globe including Canada, England and Brazil.

Matt is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Human Centered Design facilitator, holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering Technology and an MBA in Supply Chain Management and Leadership and Change Management from Michigan State University.

Upcoming Event: LPPDE Europe 2023 In-Person Conference

April 24-26, 2023 in Munich, Germany

Extreme Ownership

Join some of the leading practitioners in Lean Agile Digitalization and Leadership who will share, how digitization combined with servant leaders and trusted teams taking "Extreme Ownership", plays out to support teams to learn and decide quickly, and win on any challenge to satisfy their customers.

See updates to the program at LPPDE EU 2023.