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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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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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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Telling Good Lean Consultants From Bad Ones | Michael Ballé


“There are no good lean consultants. I’m not saying there are no good consultants. Of course there are; same bell curve as in every profession…”

See it in Gemba Coach

Michel Baudin‘s comments: 3 years ago, in What to Expect from Lean Manufacturing Consultants, I wrote an article on this subject from a different perspective. This article’s opening boggles the mind, starting with the easily debunked assumption that performance is distributed along “a bell curve in every profession.”

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Flattening the Organization- Problably Not the Answer | Gregg Stocker

“One of the misconceptions about lean thinking is that it automatically leads to flattening the organization. Many people think that layers of management are always a bad thing and start removing layers as a way to empower employees, speed up decision-making, and improve innovation. While there is no shortage of organizations that suffer from too many layers, it should be noted that flattening does not necessarily lead to improved performance. Many organizations that flattened their structures have experienced little more than burned out managers, frustrated employees, and high turnover.”

Sourced through Lessons in Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments: For the second time in a week, I am clipping a post from Gregg’s blog but I can’t help it if I find his writings worth sharing. In my experience, “flattening the organization” is particularly harmful on the shop floor. I have heard managers brag about their structure being “lean” because they had only 1 supervisor for 100 operators. This isn’t what Toyota does in car assembly, where operators work in teams of 4 to 6 and you have a first-line manager for 4 to 6 teams. This means that the number of operators for a first-line manager ranges from 16 to 36, with a mean that is actually around 17. This low number is designed to allow the first-line managers to help operators in their professional development and to lead improvement projects. A supervisor with 100 direct reports can do neither.

#LeanManagement, #First-LineManager, #ShopFloor, #ContinuousImprovement

Driving Improvement Through Systems Thinking | Gregg Stocker

“[…] When starting an improvement effort, I usually ask about the minimum target the team is attempting to achieve.  The answer is often something made up on the spot or a generalization, like as much as possible.  Improvement efforts should generally be driven by the actual requirements of the business.  For example,  if a company determines that the time between a customer placing an order and receiving the product is too long, it should determine an improvement target based on what the business needs.  If it currently takes 42 days and customers expect to receive the product in 22 days because of their needs or what competitors are offering, the minimum improvement needed is 20 days.[…]”

Sourced through Lessons in Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Gregg Stocker illustrates abstract principles with concrete examples, which makes his meaning clear and unambiguous. The above excerpt is meant to show the need for employees and managers to understand the consequences of local actions on the organization as a whole. As he points out in the rest of his post, it’s not always easy.

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