I think there are a number of necessary conditions and without them even whatever people think is the most important don't make the difference. The interactions between the components are extremely important. Rather than the analytic view to focus on individual pieces I think the key to a good management system is a focus on the organization as a system. That requires an organization that is: customer focused, continual improving with a respect for people.
Related: How to Create a Continual Improvement Culture - Give People Enough Rope (and the Right Rope) to Achieve - Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability - Engage in Improving the Management System
Follow up comment (to another comment made on the blog):
But it doesn’t offer a very easy handle for people to grasp. The so-called lean system is actually a set of systems, quite complex when you map it out.
I agree. It is helpful to make things simple to appreciate and understand – bearing in mind of course:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
I think too often people (in relation to management ideas) demand that things be made more simple than is possible to adequately understand the systems involved. This of course leads to problems. A huge value provided by people like Russell Ackoff is their ability to help explain what is needed in fairly simple terms. Still understanding how these ideas are being expressed in our management systems and how to apply the concepts to our management systems is still a challenge.
Good lean thinking (lean manufacturing…) efforts do a great deal to help this process. Even when they oversimplify (which I think is often) they get closer to appreciating the overall management system than nearly any other management framework. I believe it is possible to make things “more simple than possible” more effectively than other instances of making things “more simple than possible.” I think one of the big differences between the best lean efforts and the others is the increased value placed on deeper understanding and thinking systemically.
I do believe you often have to start with overly simplified explanations and concepts as you introduce management improvement concepts to new organizations. This is often done, and it is sensible. The problem I see is alms never is it understood this is what is happening and there is no effort to build the capability of the organization to grow the management system into one with people that gain a deeper understanding of the tools, skills, ideas and concepts.