Meaningful work for everyone ? Sorry…Lean can’t do that yet ! | John Dennis | LinkedIn

“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.

When Finance Runs the Factory | William Levinson | Industry Week

“Henry Ford achieved world-class results with three key performance indicators (KPIs), none of which were financial. His successors’ changeover to financial metrics, on the other hand, caused the company to forget what we now call the Toyota production system.”


Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Yes, giving power over manufacturing companies to accountants, as American industry massively did in the 1950s yielded disastrous results. The summary given in this article’s lead paragraph, however, does not match the historical record from other sources.
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The Term “Lean Production” is 25 Years Old – Some Thoughts on the Original John Krafcik Article | Mark Graban

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Krafcik article front page“The term “lean production” arguably was first used in a MIT Sloan Management Review article by John Krafcik that was published 25 years ago this fall (Fall 1988), titled “Triumph of the Lean Production System.” In the 1980s, Krafcik, who worked with The Lean Enterprise Institute’s Jim Womack in the MIT International Motor Vehicle Program is now president and CEO of Hyundai North America.”

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

Mark Graban’s throughts on the article that first used the term “Lean.”

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The Economist gets Lean wrong

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“Lean production is the name given to a group of highly efficient manufacturing techniques developed (mainly by large Japanese companies) in the 1980s and early[…] When a lean-production system is first introduced, stoppages generally increase while problems are ironed out.”



Michel Baudin‘s insight:

The Economist is a British magazine not known for getting facts wrong, but it did here.

Lean Production is not for the 1980s. The name may be from the late 1980s but the thing itself is a work in progress that started decades earlier. And it is from Toyota, not from generic “large Japanese companies.”

And a competent implementation does not start by making things worse.

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Lean and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – Los Angeles Times

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It has been a while, but it just happened again: a search on Lean brings up Lawrence of Arabia. In 1995, it was systematic, but I hadn’t seen it since. If you are wondering what the connection is, the movie is a David Lean production.

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