Learning From Experience

Abstract:In October of 2013, the author spoke with seven lean thought leaders to obtain their input on the field on lean and its impact on organizations. This article combines responses from those experts to a series of questions related to the field of lean. The experts …

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Great Article, unfortunately spoilt by the responses to the last question: What is the biggest opportunity for lean in today's world?
Lean has been known of for around a quarter of a century thanks to the efforts of the panel and others in academia. However, having discovered Lean it seems as though academia soon lost interest or thought this is way too destabilising a body of knowledge to teach our precious MBAs. How many MBAs, most of whom have designs on being out future leaders, have a visceral knowledge of Lean? Or even a superficial understanding? I suspect not many from the million or two (just a guess who graduate every year).
Should management education be based on Lean Thinking? Should teaching Lean begin as early as possible bearing in mind the Jesuit saying, "give me the boy until he is seven and I will give you the man"? Do we have a high failure rate in trying to teach old and successful dogs new tricks like Lean? From the discussion in Lean forums I suspect this is true, because one of the biggest hurdles to a successful Lean journey is the lack of leadership support.
Surely this is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing Lean?

--Mr Owen Berkeley-Hill, 07-16-2014


Mike Rother stated: "Lean is the permanent struggle to flow value to one customer" which agrees with my experience with the best and worst of Lean and Six Sigma and TOC and TQM implementations. The failures were due to over-simplified focus on management metrics based on financial goals at the expense of enterprise and customer wellness metrics. This was caused by two generations of quick-fix MBA's cutting costs rather than engineering the elimination of waste and the variance of products. The gains, with winning efforts, were due to data-driven analysis, design (or re-design) for manufacturability with reliability for all products, and customer-driven innovation for new products while "flowing value" to current customers for each product. That can still happen if we cut the umbilical cords to bad metrics.
--Michael Clayton, 02-16-2014


Excellent article! Especially like Rother's assessments.
--Darrell Rogers, 02-14-2014


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