“One of the misconceptions about lean thinking is that it automatically leads to flattening the organization. Many people think that layers of management are always a bad thing and start removing layers as a way to empower employees, speed up decision-making, and improve innovation. While there is no shortage of organizations that suffer from too many layers, it should be noted that flattening does not necessarily lead to improved performance. Many organizations that flattened their structures have experienced little more than burned out managers, frustrated employees, and high turnover.”
Sourced through Lessons in Lean
Michel Baudin‘s comments: For the second time in a week, I am clipping a post from Gregg’s blog but I can’t help it if I find his writings worth sharing. In my experience, “flattening the organization” is particularly harmful on the shop floor. I have heard managers brag about their structure being “lean” because they had only 1 supervisor for 100 operators. This isn’t what Toyota does in car assembly, where operators work in teams of 4 to 6 and you have a first-line manager for 4 to 6 teams. This means that the number of operators for a first-line manager ranges from 16 to 36, with a mean that is actually around 17. This low number is designed to allow the first-line managers to help operators in their professional development and to lead improvement projects. A supervisor with 100 direct reports can do neither.
“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.
The Routledge Companion to Lean Management is now available for pre-ordering. It is a compilation of contributions from multiple authors, edited by Torbjorn Netland, and Chapter 8 is my overview of Lean Logistics. The other co-authors include Dan Jones, Jim Womack, John Shook, Jeffrey Liker, Robert Hafey, John Bicheno, Glenn Ballard, Michael Ballé, Mary Poppendieck, and many others whose work I am not familiar with.
“If there is ever a time to discuss the similarities between plant leadership and politics, perhaps during an election year is as fitting a time as any. Some time ago I was attending a class at Columbia University, and over a conversation at lunch with a professor, we discussed what a day in the life of a plant manager was like (I was a plant manager at the time). After a bit of conversation about my typical day, the professor said, ‘It’s like you really are running for election as town mayor, aren’t you?'”
Sourced through from: Plant Manager/Town Mayor
Michel Baudin‘s comments:
In my presentation on the Lean Leadership Role of the Plant Manager at the Lean Leadership Summit last month, I used the ship captain as a metaphor, but the plant manager as town mayor is enlightening as well. The abstract of my talk was as follows:
The plant manager is like a ship captain, in daily contact with a team that may range from a handful to thousands of people, and accountable to an organization that is remote and has entrusted him or her with a valuable asset. The plant manager is the voice of top management to the plant and of the plant to top management, and represents the company to the local community. Of course, the plant manager must know how to pay bills on time and let maintenance use qualified technicians to fix forklifts, but there is more to the job, particularly about Lean leadership. The plant manager implements corporate policy but does not make it. If top management has adopted Lean, the plant managers can make it succeed or fail.
Originally “the art of the general,” strategy is about which armies or fleets you deploy where and for what purpose. It goes hand in hand with tactics, which is the way each unit then engages the enemy. Always fond of military metaphors, business people have chosen to use the term”strategy” for their plans and decisions on products or services, markets, promotion methods, technology, organization, and financing. To Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter “the essence of [business] strategy is choosing what not to do.”
This is a translation of Bodo Wiegand’s latest newsletter, about Lean in Germany:
I visited a company earlier this week and, as always, first went through the production floor.
The Lean manager led me through the facility. On the first white board he told me proudly, what information is collected and discussed every day. It was professionally designed, clean and clear. For me personally, it was a bit too much information, and not well suited for communication with employees.
“In the first six to 12 months, get the turkeys out. Don’t drag your feet.”
The problem with this approach is that, at the outset of Lean transformation, management doesn’t know what it’s doing. It’s not the managers’ fault, but the skills of leading a Lean transformation in this particular organization have to be learned along the way.
More often than not, the author’s version of “addressing the issue early” means firing loyal employees for disagreeing with something you later realize was wrong. And the message it sends is not one of commitment but of a mixture of brutality, incompetence and disrespect.
The following is the translation of an excerpt from from Richard Kaminski’s latest ILF newsletter:
“As Dan Jones wrote in the preface to Lean Management, the leading global Lean Production System in Europe he saw was Valeo’s, developed by Freddy Ballé with coaching Toyota. […] Less known are the methodological battles that led Freddy Ballé to try to correct the failings of the machine he had put in place, battles that have always fascinated Dan and he has encouraged me to describe several items […]:
- Quality improvement is the key to innovation. The main industrial problem Freddy has always been improving product quality in production and the implications of these improvements on products under development. Kaizen events help “clean the window” ( and generate immediate savings ) but have meaning only to he extent that eliminating variations reveals quality and process control issues. Quality is much more difficult to achieve than efficiency because it quickly boils down to knowledge — and the need to develop deep skills, which is also one of the true keys to success in Lean.
- No improvement without involvement. The first topic for Freddy has always been operator safety. His image is that it takes two feet to move : improvement and involvement go hand in hand. Hop on one foot, and you fall. In the factory, one of his first questions is “How are you organized? ” It’s not about the organization chart but how are the operators are organized. Are the teams stable? With a team leader ? How many operators for one supervisor? How the are the operators’ problems handled?
- The pull system is essential not avoid cherry-picking problems. Another common battle is the constant temptation to set priorities for problems. The pull system requires the discipline of solving problems as and when they arise and block the flow. Often the problems faced by operators in the creation of value are very different from the fads that obsess their managers. There are no major or minor problems . There are problems that can be treated quickly and easily and more difficult problems that are a struggle to solve. But the key is to acquire the discipline not to choose problems, but to deal with the reality of flow reveals, in the order in which it happens (as you produce to Kanbans in the order in which they arrive and not in the order you prefer) .
- Hypothesis testing is at the heart of problem solving. Deep learning in problem solving takes place when you test hypotheses . On the one hand , you open minds by asking for several hypotheses beyond the obvious solutions; on the other hand, you learn by testing these hypotheses one by one by practical experimentation rather than rush to a conclusion. Hypothesis test is demanding. However, pursuing ” process improvement ” without individual learning reduces Lean to a mechanical approach that can pick low-hanging fruits but not fundamentally develop the skills of the work force.”
What attracted me to this list is (1) that it is short enough to be remembered, and (2) that it is specific enough to be worth discussing.
For example, is it always true that quality improvement is the key to innovation? If your innovation is next year’s new model of a shock absorber, then it stands to reason that the lessons learned from improving quality on the current model can be applied to the design of the new one, so that it can be introduced into production faster and with fewer defects. If “innovation” refers to radically new products like the iPad or Google Glass, however, it is a stretch to link success with quality in production. The skills of the contract manufacturers obviously matter, but they are not the ones who come up with the innovative products, at least until they decide to compete with their customer, as Samsung did with Apple.
Regarding pull systems, I am used to thinking of them as tools for rapid problem detection. Machine breakdowns command immediate attention because they stop production. Defects are detected promptly as parts move swiftly from one operation to the next rather that sit in a WIP warehouse. Using a pull system does force you to address the problems in the order they occur, but only at the level of the immediate countermeasure, not the root cause. At that level, I see no alternative to setting priorities. If you find that the root cause of your forging problems is that your 300 dies don’t have standard dimensions, you have to decide whether and when to address it and it may take a year of sustained effort to fix it. If you simultaneously have a problem with microstoppages caused by parts getting stuck in chutes, you may have to make a choice. Operator involvement broadens the range of problems that can be worked on concurrently, but only to the extent that you can put together teams with the requisite technical knowledge.
Valeo is a well-known success story for Lean, now referred to as “Operational Excellence” and the “Valeo Production System” (VPS). I couldn’t find any information on line that is not published by Valeo itself. The page on the company web site has quality data from 2013, but the copy is identical to a Reference Document from 2003. I have had personal communications about VPS from consultants who are Valeo alumni, and I hope to see their comments here.