Apr 8 2017
“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.
As a consequence, company walls were covered with similar looking maps drawn by engineers who did not fully master the complicated MIFA/VSM graphic language and, in the best cases, focused improvement efforts on the aspects of the operations that were shown in these maps, like production control, at the expense of those that weren’t, like manufacturing and industrial engineering.
Similar comments could be made about all additions made over the years to the Lean House in Bob’s diagram. While exhausting, lurching from one simplistic fad to the next does not add up to meaningful improvement or enhanced competitiveness. But it’s not the LEI that creates the fads. It puts out ideas, not all of which are fully baked, and it is the audience that turns them into fads by embracing them instead of receiving them as point contributions, placing them in context, and reviewing them critically.