Giving Credit To The Precursors Of The Lean Movement

There is a famous saying that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. Fittingly, we don’t know who said it first, and Quote Investigator found it attributed in various forms to seven different authors. One of them, Harry Truman, had the idea of helping Europe rebuild after World War II but credited George C. Marshall with the plan, and it helped make it pass through congress. However, others who live by their wits as discoverers, inventors, or authors, cannot be so magnanimous, because their intellectual property is their livelihood.

In a blog post from yesterday, Bob Emiliani said “We owe a debt of gratitude to the MIT researchers who introduced the world to Lean, led in part by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones. Their work changed lives in important ways, ranging from developing a stronger, more insightful intellect, useful in all facets of life, to embarking on challenging new careers and improving processes in a wide range of industries.”

It’s a fact that The Machine That Changed The World introduced the word “Lean,” but not the content it covered. I think we do owe a debt of gratitude to researchers like Robert E. Cole for Work, Mobility, and Participation (1979), Richard Schonberger for Japanese Manufacturing Techniques (1982), Robert Hall for Zero Inventories (1983), Kiyo Suzaki for The New Manufacturing Challenge (1987), and Norman Bodek for organizing the translation of many Japanese classics on the subject during that same period at Productivity Press, particularly from Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo.

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