Jan 14 2019
SpaceX Laying Off 10% of Workforce | Bloomberg
“[…]’To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company,’ SpaceX said in a statement Friday.”
Michel Baudin‘s comments: So that’s what “Lean” has come to mean? Laying off people makes you “leaner.” When you see this kind of statement, you understand how “Lean implementation” can make employees worry. I have heard managers brag about being Lean by having one first-line manager for 100 shop floor operators. Never mind that that ratio, at Toyota, is more like 1 first-line manager for 17 operators.
#lean, #layoff, #spacex, #toyota
January 14, 2019 @ 8:03 am
You are right Michel. A pity that not too many company leaders see the positive side of keeping employees onboard (even through hard times) instead of putting them off.
Similar happens over and over again in organizations around the world. Only when sales pick up again they are in desperate need for well skilled personnel.
Short-termism is what I would call that kind of behavior!
Shahrukh A Irani
January 14, 2019 @ 12:08 pm
I thought that here in the US everybody thinks that LEAN is LESS EMPLOYEES ARE NEEDED. The difference is that a progressive company reassigns any employee made redundant in one department to another department. But when the executives and the managers who report to them have not truly got their hands dirty with implementing Lean they will always see head count reduction as the true purpose of Lean. Not to mention that Lean is a shady/shaky counterfeit version of the Toyota Production System. Finally, people like Musk who are technocrats probably do not have the in-depth knowledge and experience with Lean as do their counterparts at Toyota. TPS is a truly revolutionary flavor of Industrial Engineering! It takes a lifetime and more to really master it and appreciate it and make the most of it.
January 14, 2019 @ 5:11 pm
HOPEFULLY, most people are catching on by now to the fact that if one intends to keep themselves firmly rooted to reality (and planet earth for that matter), one MUST take whatever comes out of Musk’s mouth with an ample dose of salt… not just a grain!
UNFORTUNATELY, when it comes to the reality of practicing TRUE LEAN THINKING AND BEHAVING, Musk is NOT alone in his mis-perceptions and mis-use of any related concepts/notions.
January 20, 2019 @ 3:50 am
So I read the Industry Week article. I seriously doubt that Musk himself had any serious input into the detailed wording of SpaceX’s statement. To me, it reads like typical PR department boilerplate concocted by someone for whom ‘lean’ is nice buzz word.
The current craft of developing/manufacturing/launching rockets is about as diametrically opposite from Toyota’s continuous, mixed model (heijunka), leveled production as one can get. Nonetheless – Go SpaceX!
Lean is basically bowdlerized TPS – ‘Lean’ lacks its many key essence(s). Irani nailed it:
‘TPS is a truly revolutionary flavor of Industrial Engineering [that] takes a lifetime and more to […] master, […] appreciate, […] and make the most of […].
Right on, Shahrukh! I’ve been at it down in the trenches for 30+ years and continue laboring to grok the TPS.
For Tesla on the other hand, it’s a near perfect fit. Hopefully Musk/Tesla are deep into studying the TPS. If Tesla ‘gets it’, they just might survive.
As for the ‘South Bay Workforce Investment Board’ statement quoted in IW’s article …
“It’s always unfortunate when there are large layoffs,” [Jan] Vogel said in an interview Sunday. “We’re in touch with SpaceX, and we’re to provide transitional services to impacted employees. There are a lot of aerospace companies in the Los Angeles area. We’re ready to help people.”
A quick Google search reveals it to be just another CYA outplacement service with the predictably mediocre Glassdoor reviews. Move on people, nothing to see here.
January 23, 2019 @ 4:07 am
Using Lean as a synonym for tightly managing resources, that’s bad, as many people associate it with job-losses. From SpaceX I would have expected more. When I hear such a statement when working with a client, I usually draw three pictures on the board: 1. A skinny person who is starving, 2. An olympic athlete who is jumping over hurdles, 3. An overweight person who is unable to walk. Which one is best equipped to perform, who is “Lean”? The answer is obvious. It makes people think what “performance” means and what kind and what amount of resources are required to meet it. Those who get it will never use “Lean” in the previous/poor context anymore.
January 23, 2019 @ 9:47 am
To be fair, TPS didn’t become “Lean” until the 90’s. It’s just an unfortunate, but predictable, mix of terms. People know that “Lean” is a reduction in something.. they just seem to assume it is a reduction in workforce — which, depending on the context, might not a reference to TPS at all.
Tesla is also going through layoffs closer to 7%. From what I have heard, the attempted automation of the final assembly line backfired and caused significant downtime. Perhaps someone should send Elon a copy of Taiichi Ohno’s book on TPS.
February 4, 2019 @ 2:02 am
It is hard to judge is the 10% layoff is part of a lean process or the usage in the word lean is just part of trying to be hype in the PR announcement.
I don’t believe that we can know from the publications of what is going on in SpaceX if the layoff is part of ‘saving costs’, a change in the market’s demands or an organizational change (let’s say building a value stream teams).
I do totally agree that most of the time companies see lean as an operational matter and does not see the whole picture that lean is covering the entire scope – sales, ops, eng, management, R&D and product