Friday, October 30, 2009

Doesn't apply here

I don't know how many companies or departments within companies that I work with where their first reaction to lean is, "that doesn't apply here".

I guess that's a natural response to anything new or unknown. Additionally, most lean activities start in manufacturing areas and the activities that occur there appear very different than the activities performed by knowledge workers.

I have found that there is a need to translate the language and conversation to an area of common understanding. This helps them to feel less threatened and more open to the ideas.

I will first go through and compare traditional lean manufacturing activities and map them to the world of the knowledge worker.

After that I will hopefully have some more research done on another realm of lean off the factory floor that I can share.


  1. As a student/practitioner of Lean Thinking for over 20 years (gad! time flies, all the rest is lies (Khayam)), I have seen the flow and now the ebb of the tide. Where once we had a clamor for the misunderstood promise of Lean Thinking, I now am surrounded by the "yeah, yeah, Lean, so what" and "If we start down the Lean path, I'm gonna quit... that shit don't work here, never did, never will.."

    As most principle based concepts, Lean can be made into many things it isn't meant to be. It can be tortured into shapes that meaning that are far from the fundamental precepts and the discipline that it takes to make the journey.

    My approach is to not engage the "doesn't apply here" gang, except in actual work. When they become part of a team and actually create progress, I then spring some education and discussion of the principles of Lean Thinking, whatever is pertinent to the point at hand.

    Keep it going!
    Posted by: Ron Ferrill,

  2. Nice Blog Bob,

    I agree with Ron. TPS/Lean has been mystified over the years to the point that many believe that it is a religion. Many lean practicioners have perpetuated that myth to elevate their status and cover up their abilities or lack thereof.

    Lean is simply good manufacturing. I once had the opportunity to visit a piston plant in China. It was owned by a Korean company and it had a Korean plant manager that had obviously been around for quite a while. When I first met him, he told me that he knew nothing about lean but was anxious to learn. After a tour of the shop floor I told him that his plant was very good and had implemented many lean concepts. He told me that it was simply the way he was taught. The way that good manufacturing should operate.

    When put in these simplistic terms, no one can argue against lean. And, using Ron's approach of doing then learning is usually the fastest way to implement lean and the best way to learn lean.

    Keep blogging