We live in a world of standardization. Lean manufacturing or Toyota Production System is necessarily based on standardization, repeatable processes, identical parts, designed for ease of installation and reliability. But, what if every automobile was not the same as every other one and had its own story to tell? What if every car had a completely unique history and no two cars had the same parts? What if there were no replacement parts – no Autozone or NAPA, or dealership parts department? Welcome to Cuba!
One aspect of lean that has not been given enough attention, in my opinion, is how lean is an organization wide system of motivation that creates a high performance culture. Too many lean implementations suffer from a focus on problem solving skills, but a failure to attend to the system or culture of motivation. Too many rely on the “they oughtta wanna” assumption which usually results in disappointment.
A highly motivated work force is not an accident. It is not the result of being in one part of the country or another, have having a union or non-union. It is the result of systematic efforts on the part of management to design and improve a system of motivation. The most effective systems optimize both an ennobling purpose, the social bonds of strong teamwork, and the availability of individual incentives. They all contribute unique elements to a holistic system of motivation.
When we think of lean our mind first goes to the workings of the Toyota factory. However, the principles of eliminating waste and achieving interruption free flow may be found at an even more profound level in the design of Apple’s breakthrough products and the intuition of Steve Jobs. Reading Walter Isaacson’s recent and excellent biography of Jobs I am struck by the intuitive sense of lean, of flow, of simplicity, that he demanded from both the aesthetics and the technical workings of every product. You would be hard pressed to find an executive with a better sense of the interaction between the social and the technical.
Many leaders worry that their lean implementation efforts are not sustainable and they are too often right! Twenty years ago I worked with the Merck Cherokee Pharmaceuticals plant to design a team based organization. It has sustained over the past twenty years. Of course, it has been modified and evolved. But it has sustained. I know of dozens of cases of significant and positive change that have been sustained. I also know of dozens of cases in which they have not been sustained. The reasons are not complicated.
There are two words that are keys to eliminating invisible waste in organizations. These are adaptation and alignment. The failure of organizations to adapt to the dynamics of the external landscape and the failure to align internal systems and behavior both result in wasted energy. They both cause friction, friction between the organization and the environment and friction between members of the organization. Whether it is in a mechanical system or in a human system, friction is wasted energy. Too many leaders and change agents fail to address this form of waste.
Michel Baudin, a fellow blogger and author, posted a video link of a panel discussion that included Jeffrey Liker (The Toyota Way, Toyota Leadership) in which British consultant John Seddon makes the comment that “This respect for people stuff is horse shit.” Seddon argues that what leads to improvement is the system and not an intervention to respect or deal better with the people. Respect for people is the result, not only of personal patterns of communication, but also the result of the nature of the system.
Getting to Lean – Transformational Change Management is now available on Amazon.
There is continuous improvement, and then there is transformational change. Transformational change involves rethinking the whole-system of the organization, creating alignment to the external environment and among the internal subsystems of the organization.
Books on lean management and the Toyota Production System are too often presented as if this system has been a virtual heaven of production efficiency and worker satisfaction. In the author’s enthusiasm, questions about stress and work life are rarely raised or they are glossed over. In Japan there have been serious issues raised about the quality of work life at Toyota plants and Toyota has openly addressed this issue itself, along with its union, and conducted its own whole-system […]
The return of jobs by GE to its Louisville Appliance Park is the best evidence yet of a new trend and it is important that every company engaged in manufacturing consider the key elements that make this a sound business decision. It is an example of “macro-lean”, the creation of processes that unite major functions in the organization.
Doing 5S is easy because it requires nothing of executives and very little if any change in the behavior of managers. It does not disrupt their world. And, that is exactly why it does not address the big issues that drive the culture and competitiveness of any organization. Real competitive advantage is derived from internal strategy, building the capabilities of the organization, and that requires managing the Big Seven S’s of organization culture.
The primary task of a manager is to think. The future success of the organization is dependent upon his or her ability to think clearly, critically, and creatively.
The greatest enemy of continuous improvement is arrogance, particularly on the part of leaders, and the opposite quality of humility is a requirement of learning and improvement.
In my previous post I introduced the idea that there are “big thoughts,” or over-arching cultural principles that are essential to creating a genuinely lean culture. I suggested that the principle of Unity was the first. The second is what I will call the principles of Empiricism and Humility.
Some companies have engaged in what they think are “lean implementations” by reducing lean to component parts and experimenting with one component over there, another over here, and a third somewhere else. That is guaranteed to fail. The very idea of reducing lean to its component parts fails to “get it.” I believe that the first principle of meta-lean is what I called in a previous book, The Unity Principle. Honda took this principle to heart and sought to apply it in their U.S. operations.
The Hawthorne studies have been a frequent source of misinterpretation over the years. It happens that they also have significant implications for the implementation of lean practices in organizations.
Understanding the research can help one develop a system that is sustainable and not merely a short term boost in performance. The power of feedback, reinforcement and teamwork are the real lessons of Hawthorne.
Lean Management Systems: The New Modern Management Lean management systems are becoming the twenty-first century standard. Many years ago one of the first books I read on management was Peter Drucker’s The Practice of Management. In it Drucker defined and extolled the virtues of the management profession and gave credit to Alfred Sloan the longtime CEO of General Motors for developing the model of professional management in much the same way we speak of Toyota today. The system that Alfred […]
Is “Lean” a change methodology or an end-state, where we are going, or how we are getting there. Many lean implementations fail due to a failure to appreciate effective change methodologies. Whole-system architecture is a “macro-lean” change methodology.