Hardship Accounting Of Jobs

France is implementing a new law requiring “hardship accounting,” for the purpose of giving special pension benefits to employees whose jobs impose physical, environmental and rhythm constraints beyond a given threshold in 10 categories. This is causing a dispute between employers, who balk at the detailed record keeping required, and the government, which insists that a duly voted law must be obeyed. What I find disturbing in this tug-of-war is that I hear no voice saying that the existence of hardship jobs is abnormal and that they should be eliminated. Giving special treatment to the holders of these jobs is better than nothing, but it is an immediate countermeasure, not a long-term solution.

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Google’s Rules For Effective Meetings | Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

In How Google Works, on pp. 163-165, executives Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg give rules for running meetings, that are worth pondering, because they clearly know the topic. They rules are for a software organization, but it doesn’t mean they are not relevant in Manufacturing.

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Project Manager Versus Chief Engineer: What’s The Difference?

Question put to Michael Ballé in his Gemba Coach column:

Management wants us to start lean in product development, but refuses to consider the difference in roles between our current project manager and a chief engineer – how important is that?

Project Manager and Chief Engineer are job titles covering different roles in different organizations. Before commenting on whether management in the questioner’s company should switch titles, we should know how they select their project managers, how much authority the project managers have, and what they are accountable for. Some companies do an outstanding job of product development under project managers; others don’t.

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Medical Taylorism, Lean, and Toyota | P.Hartzband and J. Groopman | New England Journal of Medicine

Seen today in the New England Journal of Medicine, under the signature of Harvard Medical School professors Pamela Hartzband and Jerome Groopman:

“The TPS is a set of principles designed for the manufacture of inanimate objects in a factory. We accurately depict two essential elements of this system that are directly derived from Taylorism: standardization and time efficiency. In his classic study of the application of Toyota principles to the manufacture of cars in the United States, Paul Adler describes how ‘Each job was analyzed down to its constituent gestures, and the sequence of movements was refined and optimized for maximum performance. Every task was planned in great detail, and each worker was expected to perform that task in the prescribed manner.’ Adler refers to ‘the intelligent interpretation and application of Taylor’s time and motion studies’ as key to its success. He states, ‘The reference to Taylor may be jarring, but it fits.’

[…] Other medical professionals who, like us, have experienced the toxic effects of obsessive standardization and time efficiency in the care of patients have expressed concerns similar to ours. In an era of accountability, we believe that those who advocate the application of Lean principles to medical care must take responsibility for the unintended consequences resulting from these elements shared by Taylorism and Toyota practices.”

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

The authors base their claim that the Toyota Production System (TPS) is “derived from Taylorism” from the writings of Paul Adler, a business school professor at USC who has written many papers over the past 40 years, a few of which touched on TPS and NUMMI, the first plant to apply this system in the US and now operated by Tesla. I met Paul Adler at Stanford in the late 1980s, and found his insights on NUMMI quite valuable. It was also clear to me that Paul Adler was not an engineer, that TPS, to him was one interest out of many, and that his knowledge of the subject was only at the business school level, as reflected, for example in an expression like “Taylor’s time and motion studies.” Taylor did time studies; Frank and Lilian Gilbreth, motion studies with, as stated in other posts, very different objectives.

This distinction, perhaps too subtle for business schools, is of paramount importance to anyone who wants to understand TPS, which owes much more to the Gilbreth’s work than to Taylor’s. Taylor wanted to prevent workers from slacking off; the Gilbreths, to observe the way work was being done and make it easier. And the medical profession has a good reason to remember Frank and Lilian Gilbreth: the way operating rooms function today is based on the analysis and recommendations they made 100 years ago.

5S at Google?

In How Google Works, on p. 38, executives Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg wrote:

“When offices get crowded, they tend to get messy too. Let them. When Eric [Schmidt] first arrived at Google in 2001, he asked the head of facilities, George Salah, to clean up the place. George did, and was rewarded with a note the next day from Larry Page, saying, ‘Where did all my stuff go?’ That random collection of stuff was an icon of a busy, stimulated workforce. […] It’s OK to let your office be one hot mess.”

So the company whose mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” has no use for 5S in its offices. The explanation they give is that Google employees are “smart creatives” who do their best work in a messy environment, like Pablo Picasso in his studio. But I can think of another reason: the information that matters to the googlers’ work is the stuff behind their screens, not on their desks. It’s in Google’s data centers, and they work on it with Google’s software.

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Sales, Marketing, and Manufacturing Improvement

The following reader question popped up in another blog:

“Does Lean apply to sales? We’re trying to introduce Lean thinking throughout the company and have found very little on how to lean the sales department.”

The response was a set of tactical recommendations on the behavior of sales reps with customers. Strategically, however, you need to think about the role of Sales within the business. It is not just to provide a flow of orders every day. Marketing is often mentioned in the same breath as Sales, with good reason, because sales are the business’s best source of market intelligence. Continue reading

Shmoozing About Lean Leadership with Beau Keyte

Last week, Beau Keyte sent me a copy of Chapter 10 of his book The Complete Lean Enterprise, entitled Leading in the Future State, and we have been exchanging thoughts about it by email since. Many of my words below are already in my account of the Central Coast Lean Summit, where this conversation started; what is new here is the back-and-forth.

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Is Choosing a Consultant Truly The Second Step in ERP Implementation?

According to the previously cited guide from ERP Focus, choosing an implementation consultant is the second step of ERP implementation, right after selecting a vendor. In the consulting business, being a certification as an implementer from a leading ERP vendor is known as a license to print money. Even vendors of ERP products acknowledge that their customers spend more to implement the software than to buy it, and that much of this cost goes into consulting fees. The following are a few thoughts about the process of ERP implementation and the roles played by consultants, contractors, and the in-house IT team. Continue reading

About Teams and Projects

In The Wisdom of Teams, Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith explained that, for a working group to coalesce as a team, it needs a common goal, complementary skills, and mutual accountability among members. It sounds simple, but it is in fact a tall order, and there is no evidence that it is sufficient.  The authors don’t claim it is, but they found these characteristics among successful teams in sports and business, and found them lacking in unsuccessful ones.

What Makes a Great Team

Let us explore the meaning of these three characteristics in more detail:

1. A common goal. It can be organizing a successful conference, or JFK’s “before this decade is out, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” or building a motorcycle that wins a race. Whatever it is, the goal must be clearly stated in few words, with obvious success criteria, for team members to sign up.

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