In a previous post, I said:
“I am disappointed that, in general, the generation of executives who could have done the most good with Lean management did more harm that I ever expected they would. The baby boomers have learned little about Lean management and have essentially nothing to pass on to the next generation, who are left to discover the merits of Lean management for themselves – assuming they can overcome all the negatives resulting from ‘Lean done wrong’ by their predecessors.”
That paragraph got a lot of notice. So perhaps I should explain what I mean in a bit more detail.
Faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do good, when it counted the most, many business leaders immediately chose to do harm instead.
Opportunity: Latin Ob-, “towards” and portu(m), “port.” The word means “towards safety,” not “towards danger.”
These leaders unquestioningly accepted ideas about the purpose of business that did harm to people, the economy, and society, and therefore failed in a fundamental aspect of leadership: They did not bother to do some research and get the facts – as dozens of teachers had taught them over many years of primary, secondary, post-secondary, and graduate education – and instead followed the herd.
They failed to compromise and seek a balance between sometimes competing but mostly shared interests among stakeholders. It was my way or the highway. The core leadership value of serving others and personal sacrifice was trashed in favor of personal gain.
Baby boomers generation business leaders inherited a strong America yet willingly took actions to weaken it and gave us the Great Recession. They followed the herd and dismantled much of our manufacturing infrastructure, preferring to offshore work to capture short-term labor cost savings instead of understanding how value is created in their organizations – and then complain about the lack of infrastructure and skilled labor upon reshoring work 15 to 20 years later.
Rather then build, they harvested or destroyed, forsaking benefit for all in favor of benefit for few and leaving a mess for many. They lowered the standard of living and put children at life-long risk.
Looking back, the proliferation of Fake Lean tells us that these leaders were not willing to give even just a little to employees to get a lot in return. They wanted it all and got it all.
These people are the role models for the two generations that follow, Gen X and the Millenials. Hopefully, they will do some research and get the facts, choose to do good, and expand and improve upon the Baby Boomers’ flawed and narrow definition of success.