First, I’d like to say that I agree with most of the content of the article, especially the stuff on Holacracy being complicated stuff. I come from Lean management coaching, and I can say that Lean is complex too. Indeed, we see similar problems: some companies succeed in implementing it, some don’t. Most don’t by the way. Read more »
I had a sort of epiphany this morning during commute.
Lean isn’t, or shouldn’t, be transmitted or taught about improving performance or best to achieve performance.
The recent history of Lean seems to me to have gone through the following steps, which, in my mind, mirror the approaching of the WHY center circle of Simon Sinek.
Whats of Lean were the first to be taught (probably because they were the easiest to spot and understand inside Toyota plants) – and is still probably the main line of teaching Lean. Incidentally, these were those Taiichi Ohno warned us against:
- Results: is orientated toward increasing performance of the company
- Teaching of Lean: based mostly on using tools
Hows of Lean saw the beginning of a change in how Lean is transmitted:
- Results: are sought through people and therefore “Respect” comes again to the fore (which it should never have left anyway)
- Teaching of Lean: centered on how you achieve results (through people), that solutions come from them, not from the sensei. I think the epitome for this is the great “Toyota Kata” approach to teach Lean from Mike Rother.
Whys of Lean is when executives understand there’s really something more to improving a company, and that “respect for people” really is meant for more than mere words:
- Results: are about contributing to something bigger than the company
- Teaching of Lean: Lean is about making people flourish both inside and outside the company
Funnily, the more you advance in how you see Lean (according to the preceding three steps), the less you speak about Lean stuff and more about personal and organizational purpose.
Of course, I can’t end this post without this famous quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.“
Simon, I bow before you…
Mark Graban did a very nice recollection of posts on Respect for People and what it means in Lean after John Seddon comment on it being ‘horse sh*t’. Here’s the article: Toyota, Respect for People (or “Humanity”) and Lean — Lean Blog.
I would add my 2 cents here by saying that respect not only is everyday showing of a nice attitude to people (also known as “politeness”), but also a longer term view of the thing where we want people to be part of a great work place (safe and interesting) and that their work has meaning.
- So to maintain the interesting and the meaningful parts of the job, we remove waste (mura (uneveness), muda (non added value) and muri (burden)) to focus on added value.
- And to ensure that it’s done properly (not from a manager in his ivory tower) and to develop people’s intelligence, we have the people do kaizen (continuous improvement) themselves.
Is that too difficult to understand?!
What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind (N. Carr) @LinkedIn. Is this really a problem?
Here’s a nice discussion launched on the LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking and Lean for Services”: What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind (N. Carr) | LinkedIn.
I make my own contribution which I reiter here, since the group’s closed:
The original english article (from 2008) hasn’t been linked. Here is it:
A remark I just made to myself: we’re changing the way we read, undoubtedly. That we probably are also changing our way of thinking, I can understand it too.
But should it really be viewed as a problem? I mean, if you want to continue to live by thinking the way you thought a few years ago (ie, ‘deeply’), then surely you have a problem. No argument either that deep thinking allowed some fantastic inventions.
But I think there’s an (unspoken) assumption behind the article: that this new zapping way of thinking is worse than the deeper one. Surely the same things can’t probably be achieved using the new way than with the older one.
Yet, again, is it really a problem?
Humans are structurally coupled with their environment (Maturana). Their environment reflects themselves, and this is reflected also in the language they use (and inversely if we agree with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – now that I know Systems Thinking, I’d say there’s structural coupling here as well).
So that (new) languaging (Twitter or Facebook short messages), thinking, web surfing, zapping, etc. is the new way life is lived today. Or is going to be lived for years to come (I don’t see it changing soon: ask any teacher for instance about the trends they see).
In the article, Google is assumed to be the equivalent of Taylor. Then I suggest that Tim Berners-Lee was the Ford of Internet (he pulled knowledge online on the web), and now Taylor/Google is organizing it for us. I suspect the Semantic Web will even reinforce that (go think why! 😉
May I remind you that Taiichi Ohno came after Taylor with what was deemed to be known as the Toyota Production System (or Lean, though the latter lacks that Respect for People part, most of the time).
Should we compare the two, I’d say that where Taylor (Google) devised how to work (think), Ohno (? no replacement yet?) devised how to improve that work… without too much deep thinking, instead with constant and continuous improvement of the work.
Where Taylor split the work, Ohno used the small thinking of people to have them improve their small part of the work, then connect the dots (the parts) through A3 thinking and nemawashi (Google these! 😉
I see an enormous advantage in being able to surf knowledge on the web (for instance): it allows to far more rapidly connect concepts and ideas together, which you can only do so slowly when only thinking deep.
So instead of scarce big changes once in a while, we might end up with a flow of continuous small changes and innovations, all the time.
Toyota became the best in manufacturing doing exactly that. Why couldn’t people do the same for their own thinking?
People read a lot of books to try to know all about Lean. Indeed, I did it myself (and sometimes still do it). And that’s OK.
But then, we try to have others do Lean as we’ve read in the books.
It’s an error.
We ought to have others build a Lean organization, not do it as per the books.
Trying to do Lean is trying to push solutions onto people, which is a sure way to have them resist.
Whether trying to build a Lean organization is about helping people find their own solutions toward Lean. As I say, it’s about pulling Lean out of the people. Not the other way round.
Indeed, Taiichi Ohno told us so: we shouldn’t try to replicate the Toyota Production System, we must grow our own. That’s the main reason he didn’t want to write down what TPS was in the first place (other reason was to avoid it becoming fixed).
Why is it, then, that we try to replicate all that Mr Ohno told, except for this one fundamental, point?
Now, thinking about it, how long have companies been trying to replicate Toyota? That’s easy fact to find: get the publication date of “The machine that changed the world” from Womack, Jones & Roos: 1991.
It’s been 21 years that people try to teach Lean. And few succeed. Yet the teaching and education business is longer than that. Should we have known a bullet-proof way of teaching, we’d know by then, don’t you think?
So, instead of trying to find the root cause of why Lean teaching fails (besides, it doesn’t really fail: it’s just that knowledge learned that way cannot be put into motion), let’s turn to what works instead. What do successful Lean coaches tell us about turning a company Lean? It simple, and I guess anyone in the Lean business knows it:
Or, as I read elsewhere:
Go to the real place, look at the process, talk to the people.
Why does teaching Lean doesn’t work?
Trying to teach as systemic a thing as Lean is very difficult. Every single tool or practice is connected to every other one: Just in Time helps with flow, but also raises problems (that the purpose, by the way!), so you can see them, but you’d need visual performance management board as well, which means you need to learn and practice Five Why’s root cause analyses, Pareto, and Ishikawa. So, you’d discover that your training is lame (Job Instruction!), your batches are too big and because your die changeovers are too long, so you must SMED them, and so on.
So, when someone’s trying to teach Lean, they’re mainly trying to have some square pegs forced into round holes. The peg being the Lean material, and the hole being the people’s brain they’re trying to indoctrinate. People will have a hard time making sense of their knowledge with what they have in production. Teaching them is also mostly diverting their mind from where the true work needs to be done: the floor (gemba).
So between using new and non-practical knowledge or continuing to do what they’ve already done (and that they perfectly know how to do from their perspective), what do you think they will do? They will continue to do business as usual of course!
So, what to do about Lean knowledge?
Should we stop teaching Lean? No, of course, otherwise we’d be short of Lean experts someday. But what’s important is that the ones having Lean knowledge don’t try to push it onto people (besides, pushing isn’t the best Lean practice, by the way), but they must try to have people pull knowledge. And not pulling knowledge from the mind of their Lean consultant, but from their own! Which means the Lean consultant must change job and become a Lean coach. The role of a coach being that of a guide that doesn’t give solutions, but helps and encourages on the path to understanding. Of course, the Lean knowledge of the coach is useful: it helps him/her to ask the good questions at the most efficient moment so that the people can discover and learn Leanin the context of their own work.
Here’s one example of what I meant by the diatribe above: http://theleanedge.org/?p=3875. Michael Ballé’s one of the most respected Lean coach on the planet, but it took me quite some years to fully understand what he meant by repeatedly and bluntly telling people (like myself!) to go back to the gemba and work there. But for people like me that are more interested in learning than in producing, that wasn’t pleasant a discourse as I wanted it to be.
Now I know how I can have learning AND teaching at the same time: by going to the gemba and patiently and relentlessly showing the direction of Lean to people, but by coaching them to discover what would work best for them, in their own context. Hopefully, I have different tools in my toolbox to help me along the way, like Appreciative Inquiry to work out with people why do they do what they do, Solution Focus to help them remember what do they do that already works for them from a Lean perspective or Systems Thinking to nudge them into considering the whole system rather than just their silo and have them get out of their own way to truly build that systemic way of the company by 1) going to the real place, 2) looking at the process and 3) talkig to the (other) people.
Here’s a great piece of work from Art Smalley regarding the notion of “standards” at Toyota. Well, anything Art writes is good anyway, but this one unveils some confusion that might exist between the different concepts of “standards” and how and when each of them change.
I just came across the following paper describing how Toyota analyzes each and every job for physical hard and dangerous work condition. I wish more plants would use such a work condition measurement tool.
Now, I’m in the Service Industry. How could that be done similarly? Burden would have to be seen from the point of view of a worker’s mind perspective.
Just taking into consideration the formula
Weight burden index (B)=sum(WxNxL)xT/1000 could yield something like:
- Weight = difficulty of work: from simple mental calculus to highly mental computation & decision making…
- Number = number of times per job the “heavy” work has to be done
- L = Movement coefficient = an index of where that work occurs, of the conditions: under time constraints (eg. harder at the end of the process with a deadline than at the beginning)? Is it well defined (existing standard)? Is it always changing? Does it requires deep thinking before working? Risks of errors? Does it fit into a bigger picture (part of a bigger process)?
- Time coefficient = duration of difficult task
Of course, evaluation the TVAL of a work has no point if it’s not for its improvement…
Franck and Lilian Gilbreth were two engineers who pioneered motion analysis, one of the thing that Lean does (despite sometimes being a conflicting activity on the shop floor). I’ve already blogged about them, to show some video they did.
They predated Lean by a few decades, yet their center of interest is still historically interesting.
They devised a kind of hieroglyphic alphabet called Therbligs (their name reversed) aimed at analysing movements people do to identify whether such activity brought value or not.
Taiichi Ohno himself used to look at this and explained in his book “Workplace management” how, sometimes, he had problems explaining to people the difference between motion/activity and work, because, in some regional japanese, the oral words were the same and the written kanji only differed slightly (pages 33 and ff).
A Lean expert at Toyota TIE in Ancenis, France once explained to us how they had to work on motion analysis to reduce the length of a production line and how they were far behind what’s done in Japan. France was looking for associates in need of moving their legs 1 meter during their work, when Japan was looking at optimisation when an arm had to reach out for something: timing and magnitude is different, like Lean expertise!
So, next time when you look at a spaghetti diagram, please notice how you may be missing finer therbligs!
Besides, should you wish to know more on the Gilbreths, please have a look at the Gilbreth Network!
How many Lean programs start with an objective of reducing costs? How many of them are named “Lean” when it’s spelled “L.A.M.E“?
Management still thinks that because they’ve decided something ought to be done (such as lowering costs or increasing quality, reducing delays), that will be done without them being personally involved?
Hoshin Kanri is the Lean way of deploying objectives top-down through the hierarchy.
Yet, these should not be seen as traditional in the types of objectives (aka “SMART“), or in the method in which this is done.
How to do hoshin kanri?
First, the method is not really that of a “top-down” approach as I said above. It starts in a top-down manner, but only as a way for top to give some direction down as to where people should look after for improvement. And then, each level down should investigate where there’s room for improvement that could contribute to the top objectives and ask for improvement down his own hierarchy in the refined sub-objectives. All this goes right to the shop floor (bottom level) where people then know precisely:
- in which direction do the improvement objectives need to be done
- and why they are necessary (more on this below)
Only when the top objectives have been declined down to the shop floor can bottom people start thinking to how the improvement will be done and lead their kaizen efforts in the proper direction.
Of course, it could happen that lower managers (and people) know better than upper management about what the next improvement should be or in what time frame it can be done reasonably. That’s the bottom-up part of hoshin kanri where bottom people negotiate with upper people on what ought to be done. This is constructive dialogue taking place. Not dictatorship.
What kind of objectives?
The next important point in hoshin kanri to be taken into account is that the top of the top objectives are not what people could expect out of “SMART” objectives. That level of company-wide objectives is called “True North“. Often times, that kind of direction doesn’t change very often and it more importantly needs to have an intrinsic property not advocated by SMART: it needs to be motivating. This is the why of the objectives that are so deeply sought after by employees. Simon Sinek in his famous TED performance explained that “people don’t buy what you do but why you do it“. Don’t expect your people to buy-in your objectives if you’ve not sold them why you want them.
Toyota doesn’t have a company objective. It has a vision. This is maybe more clearly expressed in their Company Vision:
Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.
Through our commitment to quality, constant innovation and respect for the planet, we aim to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile.
We will meet challenging goals by engaging the talent and passion of people, who believe there is always a better way.
That’s not “SMART”. But it’s engaging. Now, every department of the company can work toward this vision, by interpreting what it means with respect to its role inside the company, to its current performance and so on.
What about your company? Are your people carving stones or building a cathedral?