Category: Lean Manufacturing

Cuba, Lean and the Virtues of a Non-Standard World

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!

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The Lean System of Motivation

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.

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The Intuitive Lean of Steve Jobs

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.

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Sustainability and Change Management

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.

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