The Worst Lean Advice

Lean Advice1Over the decades, Lean has turned into something very messy and confusing. And lots of bad advice is dispensed for organizations that are starting their so-called “Lean journey,” such as shown in the image at right. Below are brief explanations why each piece of advice is bad.

Don’t Copy Toyota

People learn by copying — how to write, cook, play sports or music, etc. Take learning how to play a guitar, for example. At first, the guitar is nothing more than a tool to make sounds and one’s focus is simply to copy others; to learn how to play songs composed by others. Copying is extremely valuable preliminary experience. With continued practice, and perhaps with the help of a music teacher, the person becomes more developed in playing capability and style. Over time, both person and the guitar evolve to become a system for making pleasing sounds, alone or with other musicians. Copying has merit. The problem becomes when people do not grow or develop beyond mere copying.

Start With 5S

The big problem that all organizations face is stagnation of material and information due to batch-and-queue processing. In other words, stagnant or blocked information flows throughout the organization. Therefore, start with Toyota-style kaizen (see here and here) to improve flow. 5S will be a normal part of your kaizen activity.

Start with an A3 Report

Again , the big problem all organizations face is stagnation of material information. You do not need an A3 report to begin improvement activities. Therefore, start with Toyota-style kaizen to improve flow. Bad flow results in higher costs, longer lead-times, lower quality, etc.

Start with Value Stream Maps

You do not need value stream maps to begin improvement activities. Go to the genba and use your eyes to see stagnation of material and information flows. Start with kaizen to improve flow.

Your Company is Unique

Companies are far more similar than different — perhaps as much as 90 percent, with similar activities called by different names. They all process material and information using the batch-and-queue method which result in stagnant material and information flows. As a result, hey all suffer from high costs, long lead-times, quality, problems, etc. In thinking your company is unique, you will find excuses to not think certain ways or avoid certain avenues of improvement.

Tour Lean Companies

Can you remember anything you learned from a field trip in grade school? Probably not. So, unless you know what to look for, touring Lean companies will be a waste of time. Your time is better spent making improvements in your company with hands-on engagement. That’s how you learn.

You Need Change Management

Toyota’s production system was not created using change management protocols. Kaizen is necessary, change management is not. Kaizen itself is the “change management” protocol.

Middle Managers are the Problem

It is a grand over-simplification to say “middle managers are the problem.” Middle managers are the apparent problem, not the actual problem. Click here to learn more.

Be Data-Driven

Data is important, but the facts are more important. Data can be manipulated, but the facts are the facts. Classically management organizations are data driven, Lean organizations are fact-based. So go see with your own eyes to understand the facts.

Hire a VP of Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is everyone’s job, from CEO to shop and office floor workers. Hiring a vice president of continuous improvement signals to the executive staff that they are exempt from applying Lean principles and practices to their own work and in their departments.

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