Why I was wrong about 2- second Lean | Dan Markovitz


“It’s time to admit that one of my consulting approaches has failed. I’m a huge fan of Paul Akers’ 2 Second Lean philosophy. It’s simple, easy to understand, and has an intrinsic appeal: “fix what bugs you.” “Figure out how to do your job two seconds faster each day.” Who wouldn’t sign on to a lean program that promotes that mindset?

So off I went to my clients, with Paul’s videos embedded in my PowerPoint presentation, ready to show them how 2 Second Lean is the answer to their productivity problems, their low employee engagement and morale scores, their mediocre customer service, and their too-high defect rates. And I failed.

When I look back at the clients I introduced to Paul’s method, I have to be honest and admit that a more traditional, kaizen event-driven approach would have served them better. 2 Second Lean didn’t hurt them, but they didn’t reap the rewards that they wanted, and that I promised. 

I missed the most obvious fact: 2 Second Lean is simple. But it’s not easy. The commitment required of the president is enormous.”

Sourced from Marcovitz Consulting

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Is the approach simple or simplistic? Perhaps, the mistake is assuming that a single method is all you need, whether it is the “2-second” approach or the oxymoronic “Kaizen event.” It’s the panacea fallacy. To improve a factory, you need a range of different approaches, from tiny improvements an individual can make within his or her area of responsibility without asking anyone’s permission to projects like line redesigns that may occupy dozens of people for months.

And there are also projects that require patient work over a year or more, like standardizing die dimensions for die casting or injection molding, developing a common tooling package in machining, or correcting errors in bills of materials in assembly.

All sorts of projects of different scales are needed, and the content of each project should dictate the way it is organized, not the other way around. If you focus on a project management pattern, you forbid yourself to address the problems for which it doesn’t fit.

I wasn’t familiar with Paul Akers so I checked out his background and a couple of his videos, which tell me he is an inspirational speaker, in the mold of televangelists and purveyors of real estate seminars. He is handsome, full of energy, and dashes onto the stage with a grin and a resounding “Good morning everybody!” This kind of openings pleases some audiences.

Personally, I keep wondering when the speaker will get to the point, and he usually never does. I might use him to get an audience excited but not to get a factory transformation going. For that, you need someone with perhaps less charisma but greater depth.

Paul Akers Japan Study Mission video, for example, doesn’t have much about factories but gives advice on beating jetlag, exchanging business cards, and using chopsticks. It sings the praises of a grocery store, the Shinkansen high-speed trains, and a preschool cafeteria. 

The grocery store sells cantaloupes for $70/piece. 

While the Shinkansen is a wonderful engineering achievement, it might be worth mentioning that the only profitable segment is the original Tokyo-Osaka line, that the network contains “lines to nowhere” built at the urging of politicians, and that the design choice of wide-gauge tracks has made the Shinkansen unsalable in the world market. 

In the preschool, Akers describes the children as saying prayers before eating. There are no prayers in Japanese public schools. And the Japanese school system is hardly a model for anyone to emulate. It’s 12 years of regimented cramming in K-12, leading up to university entrance exams, followed by a few years of letting off steam at universities. 

Where there is something for manufacturing professionals to learn in Japan is in factories, and that is what tours should be focused on, and it shouldn’t be with promises to “unlock the SECRET FORMULA to answer every question about how to build excellence into our life and organization.” 


#paulakers, #2secondlean, #Lean