Principles and behaviors matter, often more than the tools. However, teaching and actions directly focused on building a lean culture are still quite rare, as the draw to short-term results and tangible tool application is appealing. I have never seen an organization fail because they didn't have the right improvement tools. I have seen many organizations fail because they didn't have the right behaviors.
My early experiences really helped shape my thinking. I was managing material handling at Harley-Davison's main plant, where they had installed one of the first large-scale pull systems in the United States. All of the company's bikes were made in a very vertically integrated plant, including everything from laser cutting to chrome and zinc plating. The plant still seemed to treat material handling, and its system, as a secondary system, perhaps evidenced by the fact that they had given such an inexperienced person as myself so much influence on it.
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