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!
The principles and process of Agile Strategy Execution are derived from the proven experience of Toyota, Lean Startup, and Agile software development. Agile Strategy Execution is derived, not only from my experience in lean, but also from Lean Startup and Agile software development. I think it is worth considering the core principles that link these practices.
Many organizations are not gaining the potential benefits of teams in the workplace due to misunderstandings about team autonomy and self-control. This is a critical issue in organization design and leadership today. Let’s clarify both the benefits and the determinants of team autonomy.
Coaching is becoming widespread in our organizations with many people claiming to be coaches, but with very different interests and skills. To those implementing lean management it is important to recognize that every manager at Toyota has a coach or mentor. The goals of the coach and the client should be in alignment. There are a number of ways to describe the continuum of relationships between coach and client: from short-term to long-term, from focused on today’s problems to developing strategic systems and culture, from low to high intimacy. For the sake of simplicity I will divide this continuum into three zones: the Blue, Green and Red Zones of Caring.
Implementing lean management, or any other change in the culture of organizations, requires a zoom lens to see the different levels of complexity required. Toyota Kata, lean tools, and other methods operate at some focal lengths and not at others. The well informed manager will have the ability to understand complexity and to use simple methods when appropriate. If you are photographer with only a 300mm lens you will miss a lot of great photos.
The problem for most organizations developing lean management is two fold: first, how to change the culture in a significant way, in a reasonable period of time; and second, how to provide the needed training to a large number of people in a consistent and quality manner. Team Kata is an effort to solve both of those problems.
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.
Healthy families in which there is high trust result in high academic performance. This is “family social capital.” Similarly, the team at the first level is the foundation of social capital in the organization. This social capital is a key factor in generating continuous improvement and achieving high job satisfaction and retention of employees.
In my opinion, it is obvious that the current state of our healthcare system is unacceptable and it is equally obvious that the way the new law has been implemented has been unacceptably clumsy.
The question I want to address is what are the lessons one can learn from this mess and if you were the CEO of this organization what would you do differently? My thoughts follow.
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.
(The following was published yesterday in Industry Weeks Continuous Improvement Newsletter.) It may sound like sacrilege to hear someone say that continuous improvement may not always be the right answer. Of course, it is the core process of lean management. But, there are times when more significant and more rapid change is required – sometimes revolution rather than evolution is called for. When Revolutions are Needed Thomas Jefferson said that “Revolutions in human affairs, like storms in the natural environment, […]
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.
This is about lean management and organizational change. It is about adaptation to disruptive technology and markets. The ability to adapt your organization’s capabilities to changing technology and markets is, in itself, a core competence required of every organization today. And, continuous improvement will not get you there. Disruptive technologies and markets require transformational change, revolutionary rather than evolutionary, not simple problem solving or continuous improvement.
The lean management process or Toyota Production System is founded on continuous improvement. But that continuous improvement is built on top of a stable platform that is aligned with a relatively stable market. Cars still have four wheels, for the most part still have an internal combustion engine; but, they don’t fly and they don’t travel over the Internet. But, what if technology completely disrupted the business model. And, how do you transform to adapt to disruptions?