Tag Archives: respect for people

Dead See Scrolls

I participated recently in the AME conference in Jacksonville, Florida; a terrific rally for manufacturing excellence with the tongue-twisting theme “Strategic Success Through People Powered Excellence.”   I had a small role on a keynote panel that attempted to answer questions from attendees relating to generating the people power needed for strategic success.  The session evoked a sense of déjà vu, as the challenge to get everyone actively engaged in improvement  – referred to in pre-Lean times as Total Employee Involvement or TEI –  has resurfaced after nearly three decades of dormancy under the heading of people powered excellence. “This is a good thing,” I thought to myself, “that the Lean transformation discussion has moved to the social part of Lean, but why has it taken so long to resurface?”

When the panel discussion concluded, I retreated to further reflection: “Maybe,” I thought, “there never was a social part of Lean, only a set of techniques to be implemented and layered over a traditional organizational structure that valued only a few “thinkers” and treated everyone else as expendable ‘doers.” Maybe this was why the focus shifted in the early ’90s from Total Employee Involvement to Some Employee Involvement: Blitz Kaizen teams and black belts and subject matter experts and value stream leaders, none of which existed in the pre-Lean era. Maybe the Total part was just too hard or too foreign, so we retreated to our caste system of thinkers and doers and glommed onto the technical part of TPS. Technical problems, after all, are always so much easier to solve than people problems.

ideabookIn the late 80’s, Productivity Press (now CRC Press –  then the leader in bringing TPS thinking to America) published an excellent “TEI Newsletter”, a resource that provided tremendous insight about creating the environment that we are now referring to as ‘people powered excellence.’ I have all the old issues, but there is no reference to the newsletter on the Internet; and no reference to TEI in the popular Lean Lexicon or any other glossary I researched. The acronym and what it stands for have apparently been expunged from our Lean consciousness.   For those of you who’d like to revisit this prehistoric concept I recommend reading The Idea Book, authored by the Japan Human Relations Association in 1998. The book (once published by CRC Press) is now out of print, but available on Amazon for $0.01.

theoryzDigging farther into the pre-Lean period is another seminal text by William Ouchi, entitled Theory Z, a seminal dissertation penned in 1982 on creating a management system that stimulates employee engagement and loyalty.   This book came to mind during my keynote panel discussion. I wondered how many of the 1500 persons in the room had ever heard of it. Theory Z is also now out of print and available on Amazon for $0.01. Ouchi’s book is largely reflective of W. Edwards Deming’s thinking, and is still very important reading.

My post-panel musings caused me to venture to the AME exhibitors area for a visit to the CRC Press booth to peruse their latest offerings. Nearly all of the display was comprised of technical how-to books: 5S, A3, 3P, kaizen events, policy deployment, value streaming for this and that, and a host of Lean-for… texts (Lean for sales, Lean for healthcare, Lean for accounting, etc.) I asked the salesperson, “Do you still publish Ohno’s and Shingo’s books? I don’t see them here.”   He replied, “Yes we do, but we only bring new books to the conference.” (Shingo’s 1988 book, Non-Stock Production, is happily still in print, if not on the shelves.) As he answered, I recalled a warning from Shigeo Shingo that we should “not confuse means with ends,” for example, don’t think of 5S as an end in itself, but as a means to a higher purpose. All I saw for sale however was means type texts from latter day disciples.   Apparently the works from the likes of Shingo and Ohno and Ouchi have become more like the Dead Sea scrolls: they still exist, but almost nobody reads them any more. Call them the Dead See Scrolls to disambiguate.

O.L.D.

News Flash: DExc

Don’t miss this important Shingo Institute training event, Discover Excellence.
Date: January 8-9, 2014
Place: Haworth Inc., Holland, Michigan
Instructor: Me
For more information, visit www.gbmp.org and click on Events

BTW: This is the fourth anniversary of Old Lean Dude, a blog I started partly to promote management engagement in continuous improvement and partly as a means to blow off steam. Posting about twice per month since 2010 has, in fact, been helpful to my personal sense of well being, but I hope there has also been some value to others. Thanks to everyone who has responded to my posts. I really do appreciate your comments and observations.   Keep ‘em coming.  – Bruce

Invisibility

A chance reading recently provided a thought from Henry Thoreau that I think is worth sharing. Thoreau said:

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when
one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”

The quote caused me to reflect on an incident some years ago at a film manufacturer:

I had been asked to visit with a team of engineers and scientists to troubleshoot a process problem on the production line.   While I had no special technical understanding of this process, the project manager felt that “another pair of eyes” might help to discover the cause of impurities deposited on their finished product, polarized film.

invisiAfter a short meeting, our team of erudite problem-solvers took to the floor, which, in this case was a one hundred foot long automated coating line. Film wound in serpentine fashion through prep, coating, drying and slitting zones over dozens of stainless steel rollers, accumulators and knives.   When the two technicians manning the line were told to take a break during our investigation, I objected and asked if they could work with the team.   One of our team, a gentleman with a PhD in Chemistry, grunted disapproval and then declared that he had isolated the problem in the process and had a solution. “MEK on this roller,” he said, pointing to a large stainless cylinder.   He turned to one of the techs and barked at her, “Wash this down with MEK.”

Both technicians glanced over to me, one of them shaking his head slightly.   “What do you think?” I asked them. One tech responded tentatively, “I used DI water for a similar problem in the past.” I glanced back to the problem-solving team, but no one was paying attention. In a slightly elevated tone, I repeated the tech’s idea. “She says that DI water has worked for cleaning in the past.”

After a short pause, our PhD chemist replied with an air of condescension, “Just use the MEK.”

By now, dear readers, you may think you know where this story is headed.   And you’re right! After several hours of experimenting with MEK, the team decided it was not working. “How about trying the DI water?” I asked. The project manager shrugged and replied, “Ok, let’s give a try.”

The cleaning with DI Water worked; the residue of impurities on the film vanished. To my amazement at the end of the day, the team thanked me – not the technicians – for the idea.   I corrected them, but I’m not sure they understood. To paraphrase Henry Thoreau:

“The greatest insult that was ever paid me was when
no one asked me what I thought, or attended to my ideas. “

Are you attending to the ideas of your employees, or are they invisible?   Please share a thought.

O.L.D.

ALERT: Less than six weeks until our Northeast Lean Conference. This year’s focus “Putting People First” will energize your Lean journey. Click here for more information.

And don’t miss my next free Tea Time with the Toast Guy Webinar on September 9th from 3:00-3:45 p.m. The topic: “Getting Suppliers Involved – Do’s and Don’ts.”  Register here.