“This year is the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI). There will surely be a big celebration. But in my view, there is less to celebrate than meets the eye. Here’s why:
LEI has controlled the progressive management agenda for the last 20 years. That means they own the failures as well as the successes. By LEIs own reckoning (as well as its sister organization, the Lean Enterprise Academy in the U.K.), success has been much less than they had hoped for.”
Sourced through Bob Emiliani’s blog
Michel Baudin‘s comments: Overall, I agree with Bob’s assessment, but I think American manufacturers deserve more of the blame than the LEI, for faddishly latching on to one tool after another and mistaking it for a panacea. For example, in his introduction to “Learning to See,” Mike Rother explicitly warns the reader that, at Toyota, Materials and Information Flow Analysis (MIFA) is not a major tool. Yes, he repackaged it with the attractive but nonsensical name of “Value Stream Mapping” (VSM), but his audience didn’t have to elevate it to the status that it did.
“I have long felt that people have listened too intently to the analysts who have not actually “played the game” – the interpreters of Toyota’s management system, not the people who actually created it. I think that it is easy for all to agree that someone who actually created something is a much better guide than someone who studied it second-hand.[…] Original sources are the best sources to learn from and should form the fundamental basis of your understanding of TPS and Lean. ”
Sourced through Bob Emiliani
Michel Baudin‘s comments: The originators of Toyota’s production and management system are all dead. This includes Sakichi, Kiichiro and Eiji Toyoda, Taiichi Ohno, Shigeo Shingo, and others, which makes it difficult to learn from them through personal communication. We can read what little they published, or rely on the generations that came after them. The people Emiliani shows to the right of Taiichi Ohno as “originators,” Fujio Cho and Chihiro Nakao, actually are disciples of the originators, which isn’t quite the same. As Emiliani sees it, the alternative to learning from these people is learning from “interpreters” who, as he implies in the title, don’t know what they are talking about because they had no hand in creating it. Are these really the only choices?
“It is disrespectful to workers for Management to make promises that they cannot deliver on. However there are presently some academics and authors in the Lean community who say that Lean transformation should provide ‘Meaningful Work’ for all workers. This phrase is setting too high an expectation for our workers…that we will not be able to deliver on…”
Sourced through LinkedIn
Michel Baudin‘s comments: I agree. Just Another Car Factory? Lean Production and Its Discontents is a chronicle of the early years of CAMI, a GM-Suzuki joint venture in Canada, which describes labor problems as due to management overselling Lean to production operators. As a manager, it’s one thing to overpromise to your superiors and another to shop floor operators. They don’t react the same way. Superiors reward you for setting “stretch goals,” and punish you if you only commit to what you can deliver. It’s the project game, as it has been played by generations in American managers. With shop floor operators, on the other hand, you lose your credibility and your ability to lead.
There is nothing you can do to turn a job in which you repeat the same 60 seconds of activity 400 times a day into “meaningful work.” You can make it easier and safer, you can mitigate the monotony by rotating operators between stations every two hours, and you can involve operators in Kaizen,… All of this improves both the performance of the production line and the experience of working on it, but it still won’t make working on an assembly line the kind of jobs kids dream of doing when they grow up. Dennis is right to say that overpromising to workers is disrespectful. They can handle the truth.
“It’s finally here. The Routledge Companion to Lean Management has been published. 72 leading authors from 15 countries summarize the need-to-know about lean, as it continues its spread from Toyota’s assembly operations to healthcare and beyond. ”
Sourced through Torbjørn Netland’s better operations blog
Michel Baudin‘s full disclosure: I am one of the “72 leading authors” of this book, as you can in the cloud below. I contributed and overview and case study on Lean Logistics. I have, however, not received my own copy yet, so I can’t comment any further.
“Corporate investment is increasingly shifting from machinery and employees to robots and software. Why? Because CEOs think digital transformation will be a source of competitive advantage. And it is a transformation that they think they can execute more rapidly compared to Lean transformation. CEOs also think that automation and artificial intelligence will take on greater roles, while the work of employees will take on less significance over time. They think technology is becoming more valuable than employees.”
Sourced through Bob Emiliani’s blog
Michel Baudin‘s comments: “Digital transformation” is a quaint way of describing the growing pervasiveness of software in business, with its infrastructure of computers, computer-controlled devices, and networks. Digital is normally opposed to analog, as in music CDs versus vinyl LPs. The early work on industrial automation was based on analog mechanical, fluidic, or electronic control systems, and its “digital transformation” happened decades ago with the advent of numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). This is not what Bob is talking about, but I am not sure what he is talking about.
“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.
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).
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.