Is That Your Impression?

Blood Feud


It seems that some or many people who follow me on social media think that I am in a blood feud with James Womack and the Lean Enterprise Institute. That is a mistaken impression. While I do not know Dr. Womack personally, I have briefly met him a three or four times over the last 25 years and I found him to be a very nice person. He, like many others, has done some fine work. I have nothing against him or anyone else.

But I do closely scrutinize his work and the work of other people and organizations prominent in Lean world because they are so influential. In doing so, I merely point out facts — omissions, misunderstandings, inconsistencies, and mistakes — often accompanied by sharp but accurate words. This is part of my learning, and so it is part of your learning too. That should be your impression.

My critiques and commentary add to the dialog and give people an opportunity to think and improve what they do and how they do it.

My driving interest is to make progress, and those with a similar motivation will use other methods that are likely more placid. That’s good! Different approaches to learning resonate with different people. The point is to welcome the different approaches that I and others employ, and understand they share the same overall objectives.

Open-minded people see what I do as useful. They often recognize the absurdity and find humor in what I point out, and see it as wonderful in the sense of not accepting the status quo for either classical management or Lean management.

Closed-minded people consistently personalize their inability to refute my work. They avoid the facts that I present, and so the next best thing for them to do is to turn it into personal animosity.

But I hold no grudges. I recommend to others the work of those who dislike me. On a few occasions, I said to those who have come to dislike me: “You have done a lot of good work. I will always recommend your work. Will you recommend my work?” Their answer is, no answer. They would not commit, but it is clear to me given the context of the conversations that they will likely never recommend my work to others.

In addition, some view me as being “radical.” It is true that I pull no punches and I express myself freely, holding nothing back. While perhaps unusual, this is not radical. Nor are my efforts to promote progressive management, both TPS and Lean (yes, even “Fake Lean” can do you some good), which are firmly fixed in the (near) global norm of capitalism. I would simply like to help add a meaningful “respect for people” and a “respect for planet” touch to capitalism.

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