“Lean thinking needs transformation, major expansion, and a basic shift in objectives – from improving operational efficiency to something much bigger: Continuous Regeneration of ourselves, our human economy, and of the natural world. All three depend on each other. To do that we must learn to think more than technique deep.”
Sourced through the Compression Institute.
Michel Baudin‘s comments: While I agree with Doc Hall that there is more to life in society than manufacturing or even business operations and that we need to continuously rethink the conclusions we have reached on “ourselves, our human economy, and of the natural world,” I don’t see much value in putting all of these deep meditations under Lean, which I see as nothing but a convenient label to enable car companies to adopt Toyota’s system without referencing a competitor, and to allow organizations outside the car industry to borrow and adapt concepts from this system.
To what extent should managers be able to do the work of their subordinates? And, if they are, how should they use this ability? This is not a topic I have seen addressed in the management literature, perhaps because there are no generic answers. The manager of a car repair shop is typically a mechanic who can do everything the technicians can, but the manager of an opera company usually can’t sing.
I found the following reader’s question in another blog:
“I’m new to Lean and reading all I can find about it, but is there something specific I need to look out for; is there something I should know that I won’t find in the books?”
It’s been centuries since the book was the state of the art in communicating knowledge, and readers needed technical support on how to use one:
Millenials may be the last generation for which “book smart” is synonymous with educated. But books, even printed books as opposed to ebooks, are still essential to learning, and in particular to learning Lean.
Few terms cause manufacturing professionals’ eyes to glaze over like “probability.” They perceive it as a complicated theory without much relevance to their work. It is nowhere to be found in the Japanese literature on production systems and supply chains, or in the American literature on Lean. Among influential American thinkers on manufacturing, Deming was the only one to focus on it, albeit implicitly, when he made “Knowledge of Variation” one of the four components of his System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK).
“Twenty-five years ago, I tried to coach adult college students to seek and solve problems using the classic Deming PDCA Circle. In classrooms, students were unused to identifying their own problems rather than having them pre-defined. The first time through this exercise, over half did not reflect on a problem to seek root cause. Instead, they went shopping for a gizmo, a program, or a recipe to fix the problem – a quick-fix mentality.”
Sourced through the Compression Institute
Michel Baudin‘s comments: 33 years ago, Robert W. Hall wrote Zero Inventories, the first original, technically meaty book in English about Lean Manufacturing, and I have had great respect for him ever since.
In Toyota’s Guiding Principles, last revised in 1997, Michael Ballé sees more than “goal-oriented efficiency.” While I would not use a phrase like “goal-oriented efficiency,” the principles do not strike me as anything beyond strategic guidelines to ensure the long-term, worldwide viability of the company. If they serve this purpose, great, but a car manufacturer is the wrong place to look for philosophical enlightenment.
“Nearly two years ago my family and I moved to Tokyo. As a lean coach and enthusiast, you can imagine my excitement. I set out with the intention to deeply learn about Japanese business culture, leadership, and application of kaizen (Japanese for “continuous improvement”). I saw my time in Japan as a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the environment where the principles we call “lean” were born.
Now, after 18 months spent in Japan (we have just moved back to California), I find myself reflecting on what I learned and how the experience living there has shaped my own thinking about and understanding of lean. I want to share some of these thoughts with you.
The main theme that has emerged from my reflection is that Japanese culture does not equal Toyota culture. What we call “lean” is not inherently easy for the Japanese and there are cultural traits that both enable and inhibit the adoption of principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS)…”
Sourced through Planet Lean
Michel Baudin‘s comments: Katie Anderson is back from Japan, after 18 months, where she realized that the Toyota Production System (TPS) is the brainchild of smart people who happened to be Japanese and not the product of Japanese culture. Based on my own immersion in Japanese culture, and years of work with Japanese mentors and partners, I concur.
Two years ago, I advocated dropping the “Sensei” nonsense but it soldiers on. Blog readers keep asking questions about it. Consultants who do not speak Japanese keep answering that there is a fundamental difference between a sensei and a consultant, and seeing a deep meaning in the word “Sensei” that just isn’t there. There is indeed a difference, but it is basic: “Sensei” is a polite term for schoolteachers and other instructors, while a consultant is someone who gets paid for an engagement, as opposed to an employee. One word refers to a role; the other one, to a business relationship.
Sourced through Lean Leadership
Michel Baudin‘s comments:
Strategy originally is a military term, for the plans on where you deploy armies and fleets and for what purposes. It is supplemented by tactics, the methods used in the field to engage the enemy. It is easy to think of it as cascading down, where what is tactics to the general is strategy to the colonel, and so on down to the grunt, who only has tactics. To the CEO, Lean is not a strategy but a tactic; to the VP of Manufacturing, on the other hand, it is a strategy.
For details in this blog, see last year’s About Strategy, Tactics, and Lean.
“The kids are hungry, the driver has a headache and everyone has to go to the bathroom. If you’re traveling by car on a holiday weekend, the last thing you want to find at a roadside rest stop is a long line for a toilet. Companies that run major highway service plazas in Japan go to considerable lengths to ensure you never will, as they compete for the coveted Japan Toilet Award from the transportation ministry…”
Sourced through the New York Times
Michel Baudin‘s comments: When at airports or museums, you find the Men’s room readily accessible while there is a long line of women waiting on the other side, you cannot help but blame the architects for lack of respect for humanity. The buildings may look great, and may even excel at their primary function — getting passengers on and off airplanes, or giving access to cultural treasures — but they suck at details that are vital to the basic, physical comfort of their users.