Lean and the Adjacent Thinker | Robert Martichenko | LeanCor

“…As a lean thinker, I can start by asking myself, what are the adjacent processes to my work to which I need to connect and what is the math of the flow between us?  That is, who are my allies, whose outputs are my inputs, and who’s using my outputs as their inputs? And how can I formally collaborate to connect these series of adjacent processes to create flow?…”

Sourced through the LeanCor blog

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

“Adjacent” is a good word for all the processes that directly exchange materials or data with one operation and, if adjacency is locally well managed at every operation, you have a smooth flow from start to finish. I will henceforth use this. At the start of his post, Robert confesses to having studied math as an undergrad, which is another thing we have in common besides having both written books about Lean Logistics.

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Productivity, Automation, And Robots

Journalists and other authors who should know better routinely conflate productivity increase with automation and automation with the introduction of robots. “Productivity” covers a set of performance metrics that are increased by a variety of methods, many of which do not involve automation. Automation sometimes increases productivity, but not always. Finally, most of the time, automation does not involve robots. At last Tuesday’s Palo Alto Lean Coffee, I asked Tesla’s Omar Guerrero and Genentech’s Curtis Anderson for examples of changes that had increased productivity in their organizations.

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Where Lean Has Failed | Jim Womack | Planet Lean

Given two significant milestones this summer – the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Lean Enterprise Institute and the 10th anniversary of the Lean Global Network (about which, more next month) – I’ve recently found myself thinking about the original promise of the lean movement and the world that Dan Jones and I thought lean thinking could create as we wrote The Machine That Changed the World in 1990 and Lean Thinking in 1996.

Sourced through Planet Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Jim Womack reflections about his vision’s failure to materialize should extend to the vision itself. He does not, at any point, envision the possibility that there might be anything wrong with his ideas. He thinks he made a “compelling case,” that simply failed to compel because it was not communicated properly. He exhorts followers not to succumb to defeatism and to keep plugging success stories. This is still not compelling. He needs to ask why a few more times and dig deeper.

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Sophisticated Graphics In The New York Times

“Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis. The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans, as the chart below shows.”

Sourced through the New York Times

Michel Baudin‘s comments: This morning’s New York Times contains an article with data visualizations at varying levels of detail that are far more sophisticated than the usual pie charts and stacked bar charts commonly found in the American press as well as in business presentations and shop floor performance dashboards.

The exact meaning of the above chart between the title and the lead of the article is not immediately obvious. After looking at it for a minute or two, you realize that it has a high data-to-ink ratio: it makes a non-trivial point in a flourish-free format that I think Edward Tufte would approve.

The article is about the relative representation of different groups in the student population of 101 institutions,  including the Ivy League, University of California campuses, “top liberal arts colleges,” “other top universities,” and “public flagship universities.” The study compares the proportion of freshmen enrolled from each group to their proportion in the college-age population as a whole.

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The fallacy of maturity assessments | Chris Hohmann

“Maturity assessments are a kind of qualitative audit during which the current ‘maturity’ of an organization is compared to a maturity reference model and ranked accordingly to its score.[…] The maturity assessment is usually quite simple: a questionnaire guides the assessment, each maturity level being characterized by a set of requirements. It is close to an audit.

The outcome of such an assessment is usually a graphic summary displaying the maturity profile or a radar chart, comments about the weak points / poor scores and maybe some recommendation for improvement. […]

Maturity assessments are not a bad thing per se, but their practicality and simplicity are often misused to assess more than just maturity (or awareness). This is most often misleading because of the false underlying assumptions and promoting wrong behaviors and practices.”

Sourced through Chris Hohmann’s blog

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

I agree with Chris’s analysis, but my conclusions are blunter. Scoring an organization in terms of compliance with a set of practices is like judging a chess player by the number of pawns moved per game. It’s doable but irrelevant, and a distraction from the real work of improvement. The record of this approach is that you have organizations scoring top marks on every axis while going bankrupt and low scoring organizations that prosper.

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Is Reflection a Lost Art? | Robert Martichenko


A close friend recently asked me if I thought writing is a lost art.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Mostly,” she said, “because all I see these days are people writing on social media, in short bursts, with multiple typos, poor grammar, and no rigor to the thoughtfulness of the message.”

Having still not answered her question, I thought for a little bit, mostly about why I personally like to write.

“No,” I answered.  “I don’t believe writing is a lost art.  I believe the leadership principle of reflection is a lost art.”

“Interesting”, was my friend’s reply. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well,” I said, “if I think back on the business books I have written, and the recent novel that I published, the true precipice of my writing was to practice the lean leadership principle of reflection. In order to write thoughtfully, you need to put yourself in a quiet place, you need to unplug, you need to assemble your disconnected thoughts on paper, then analyze and synthesize these thoughts in order to package them in such a way that a stranger can understand the lessons and concepts that you are trying to communicate. And often when I’m writing, I reread what I’ve written, and I realize that my thoughts are not even clear in my own mind. This forces me to work at it again – with sleeves rolled up – in order to truly understand what I’ve learned as a leader relative to the concepts I am writing about. This is not always easy. However, to quote Snoopy from Charlie Brown, ‘I am a great admirer of my own writing’, so this allows me to soldier on.


For me, writing creates an effective environment for true reflection.

What is your process?


Michel Baudin‘s comments: Robert Martichenko came to my attention back in 2005, as co-author of the second book on Lean Logistics. Mine was first, by a few weeks, and it’s been a friendly rivalry. As of this morning, on Amazon, mine has 10 reviews and ranks 4.8 out of 5 stars, while his has 6 reviews and ranks 4.7. But his book is cheaper and his sales rank is higher. A few years after both books came out, a seminar organizer for Robert liked the subtitle of my book, “the nuts and bolts of delivering materials and goods,” so much that he used it in a promotional flyer, for which Robert duly apologized.

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Using videos to improve operations | Part 8 – Video Repositories

The seven articles I posted four years ago on the art of using videos to improve operations included no pointers on what to do with the videos once you have them. This concern may seem premature in a manufacturing world where video recordings of operations are still rare, process instructions are in dusty binders and obsolete, customization specs come in the form of all-uppercase text from a 30-year old dot matrix printer with a worn-out ribbon, engineering project records reside in individual employees’ laptops, and management expects IT issues to be resolved by implementing a new, all-in-one ERP system.

In everyday life, on the other hand, videos are already in common use to explain how to pry loose a stuck garbage disposal, remove a door lock, change a special bulb in car headlight, or neatly cut a mango into cubes. You just describe your problem in a Youtube search, and up come videos usually shot and narrated by handy amateurs, and sometimes pros. It is particularly useful for tasks involving motion with key points that are difficult to explain with words or still images. The manufacturing world will eventually catch up.

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Acceptance Sampling In The Age Of Low PPM Defectives

Today, some automotive parts manufacturers are able to deliver one million consecutive units without a single defective, and pondering quality management practices appropriate for this level of performance is not idle speculation. Of course, it is only achieved by outstanding suppliers using mature processes in mature industries. You cannot expect it during new product introduction or in high-technology industries where, if your processes are mature, your products are obsolete.

While still taught as part of the quality curriculum, acceptance sampling has been criticized by authors like W. E. Deming and is not part of the Lean approach to quality. For qualified items from suppliers you trust, you accept shipments with no inspection; for new items or suppliers you do not trust, you inspect 100% of incoming units until the situation improves. Let us examine both what the math tells us about this and possible management actions, with the help of 21st century IT.

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The Only Capability That Matters: The Willingness And Ability To Learn | Becky Morgan | Industry Week

“Research shows that over a million manufacturing jobs sit unfilled right now. That number is expected to increase to over 3 million by the end of this decade. A skills shortage is to blame, say most. ‘We need CNC operators, robot operators, and mechatronics skills’ say all too many manufacturing companies. […] How does a manufacturing company leader solve that problem? By emphasizing the only capability that truly matters: The willingness and ability to learn.”

Sourced through Industry Week

Michel Baudin‘s comments: As usual, I tend to agree with Becky Morgan. In the article’s featured image, I also noticed the learner’s gray hair and his obvious willingness to take instruction from a younger man. It reinforces Becky’s points. When you desperately need a CNC programmer, you are tempted to seek someone with just this skill to fill just this pigeonhole. What Becky says is that, not only are you unlikely to find this rare pearl but, even if you did, it wouldn’t serve you well because the skill in question would be obsolete in 5 years. Instead, she argues, you should recruit team members to learn and grow with the company.

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Should You Know Why Before You Know How?

The first article in Jill Jusko’s twice yearly “Top 10” Industry Week articles about Lean is her own Lessons in Lean Training, in which she quotes consultant Jon Armstrong as saying “individuals first need to know why before they know how. It’s important to start with the principles.” It sounds rational but it isn’t quite as obvious as it sounds. It’s an effective way to teach geometry but not English spelling. In geometry, you arrive at conclusions through logic; in spelling, you memorize arbitrary rules. You don’t learn to spell because of principles but because you won’t get the job you want with a misspelled resume.

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