With just 16 days before our 16th Annual Northeast L.E.A.N Conference (by the way the acronym stands for Lead, Enable And Nurture), I’ve decided to share a post-a-day with my readers. Each post is taken from my 35 years as a student of Lean, and will highlight something that has in my view presented an obstacle to understanding continuous improvement. Depending upon your point of view –and I’d like to hear your point of view — some of these may seem trivial and others more significant. For me, each is significant enough that it is a piece of the context by which I see things. By extension, I worry that if others do not also see these things as I see them, then our collective ability to improve is limited. My sixteen Lean Peeves, presented over the days leading up to our conference on October 7-8, are shared in no special order. But because this year’s conference, 21st Century Lean, deals with the harmonization of Lean Transformation and Digital Transformation, I’ll try relate each of my peeves to one or both of these. Here is the first Lean Peeve:
Lean Peeve #1: Waste Modifiers. Why are modifiers like “unnecessary” or “excess” used to describe waste? Sometimes they explicitly name the waste, (as in the image I pulled from the internet, e.g. Overprocessing,) and other times in amplifying explanations of the waste. I grate my teeth when I see these interpretations emblazoned on posters in the factories and offices I visit. Shigeo Shingo’s famous quote is relevant here: “Elimination of waste is not the problem; identification of waste is the problem.” Shingo did not differentiate between “necessary” and “unnecessary” Motion, for example, because ALL Motion is a waste. Consider the wiggle room that these adjectives afford. Once we apply them, the ideal is watered down to “the best we can do.” Who decides what is necessary or not, and how does that standard impact our ability to identify waste? And, from a digital transformation point of view, while IoT shows great promise to provide an integrated image of work flow (and waste) along a value stream, what if the standard has blind spots? For some reason, a few of the seven wastes get this special dispensation: “Unnecessary Motion” or “Excess Inventory” or “Over Processing.” Thank goodness I’ve not yet seen, “Excess Defects.”
Want to short-circuit creative thinking about elimination of waste and embed misconceptions into IoT? Just add some forgiving adjectives to obscure the ideals. Want to learn more about the critical relationship between Lean Transformation and Digital Transformation? Join us on October 7-8 for the 2020 Northeast L.E.A.N. Conference (virtual/digital of course:). Only $295 for GBMP members. You can see the agenda here.
By the way, I have a couple more beefs with waste distortions that I’ll share in later posts. But tomorrow my post will be “Student Body Right.” Can you guess what that will be about? Please check back.
Also, a quick note about our conference Kick-Off Keynote – Adapting Lean Thinking to a Crazy Century” – presented by James Womack. Yes, THE James Womack. Lean production and its companion lean management were created in the period between 1950 and the early 1970s in a world that seems stable by 21st century standards. He’ll discuss whether the ideas and methods of lean thinking, created for the long-term steady improvement of stable enterprises, are suited for this new era, and in what ways might they be adapted. He’ll help us grasp the situation in the new century and examine the role of lean thinking in a crazy time. I’m really looking forward to this session (and many more). Hope to “see” you there.