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November 17, 2009

Lean Thought for the Week

I’ve been rereading “The Toyota Way Fieldbook” and am struck by the way the authors close the book. For me, their words truly sum up the difficulties that lean faces in Western businesses. Their words speak for themselves:


“When we first start to work with companies, they often ask “Is there a company like ours that has implemented lean that we can go visit ?”..…. What we think they are telling us is: “Paint me a detailed picture of exactly what the destination will look like in my business before we start the journey”. The other question asked is “What exactly can we expect in terms of cost savings and what will it cost to go lean ?”. In other words, put into numbers precisely what we can expect so we don’t have to take a risk. Fear of taking this step by step and figuring it out as we go is one reason there are so few good lean models, and overcoming that fear requires a leap of faith.




“People are more likely to take the risk if failures are not punished and there is support that failure is acceptable – you need both of these things combined. ….


“In many organization’s we’ve worked with there are too many inconsistent messages. Trying and experimenting are supported in the kaizen event but not in daily work. Top management is preaching change but middle managers are preaching production and business as usual and punishing any production disruptions. Management is preaching to stop and fix problems to achieve high quality, but in the heat of production workers are instructed to put their heads down and get production out at all costs. Management says its okay to innovate and experiment, but then punishes people for failing”


The Toyota Way Fieldbook, Jeffrey Liker and David Meier. McGraw-Hill Professional 2005. ISBN 0071448934