Banished from Lean World

No Emiliani 1

Fun Fact: January 2021 will begin the seventh year of my banishment from Lean-world. It started in 2014, when I spoke truth to power in my blog and in my books, pointing out various problems and inconsistencies that many other people clearly recognized but were afraid to say in public. I had no such fear, believing it was my duty to speak up while others could not or would not, and so I got into trouble. It quickly led to being disinvited globally from conferences, webinars, and other such information sharing events. I was repeatedly told by several Lean luminaries that my critiques of Lean and the “tone” of my writing were inappropriate — though, never did they challenge me on the facts. Other esteemed colleagues just ignored me. In today’s terminology, I was “cancelled.”

While I am disappointed with my colleagues for avoiding the facts and failing to engage for the purpose of advancing Lean management and community-wide learning, I harbor no animosity and remain quick to recommend their work to others because, ultimately, we are all on the same team working hard to advance progressive management (even if I am not permitted to be a team member). I took a stand and so did they, and within that milieu lay many assumptions and misunderstandings which have gone uncorrected due to the absence of dialog.

Every person who asks about my interactions with the big names in Lean-world is surprised to learn that I have nearly zero contact with them. I was never one of the cool Lean kids or part of the in-crowd. I have always been an outlier, even when I was in the good graces of the Lean luminaries from about 1999 to 2013. Apparently my “brand,” is, one way or another, distasteful to my colleagues.

During my banishment from Lean-world I authored or coauthored 13 books and did my best work in the last few years, as shown in the books below. Driven by intense curiosity, these works are unique and surely would not have been attempted by anyone else. It is work that my estranged colleagues are especially eager to ignore. If you want to know why, go ahead and ask them.

Books Row1
Books that Lean luminaries don’t want you to read and whose existence they may never acknowledge.

While banishment carries a small sting, the reality is that if I were part of the in-group I would have had to conform to their way of thinking and doing things, which, as a free thinker, I could not do. The decisions they made nearly seven years ago, and earlier, come at some cost because it allowed me, a rebel, to roam freely in the parts of Lean-world that remain available to me to influence people. Depending on your point of view, those decisions can be viewed as either very wise or strategic blunders. Either way, it clearly reveals everyone’s true colors, for better or worse, and that is an integral part of how progress is made. It is bumpy, not smooth.

As everyone knows, you must “play the hand that you are dealt.” And so I did. In an odd way I am grateful for having been banished, exiled, canceled, ostracized, shunned, disrespected, stigmatized, muted (pick whichever you like) because it gave me the time and space to do important work that otherwise would probably not have ever been done, and which, objectively, fills a gaping void that clearly serves the current and long-term interests of the Lean community.

I do not know what I would do if my colleagues were suddenly brave and invited me back into the fold. I don’t seriously expect that I will have to face that decision because excommunication for my sins of thinking and speaking is almost certainly for life. The motivations for status dominance and avoiding loss of prestige, driving forces for banishment, are unlikely to wane. Nevertheless, my work is not yet done. There is more to come. 😀


P.S. One more thing. Because I’ve been banished from Lean-world, I have to promote my own work (often to the annoyance of some). The Lean “establishment” will not do it no matter how meritorious my work is, jointly or severally. A small number of kind and enthusiastic people help me out of their own free will. I am grateful for their support.

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