Turning Gold Into Lead

The Alchymist by Joseph Wright of Derby (1771)

Over the years, Lean management has turned into roughly equal parts a mere collection of problem-solving tools for common business problems in classically managed businesses and a banal self-help regimen. In both cases, Lean management has been greatly diluted from its TPS-informed industrial engineering basis of understanding the work to different types of fluffy training programs that sell really well but do not accomplish much in the real world.

Prominent organizations and individuals have long engaged in reverse alchemy, where gold is TPS and The Toyota Way and lead is the fluffy training programs weakly derived from TPS and The Toyota Way.

With fluff comes lots of wishful thinking (hoping that some type of important change will happen when there is little or no evidence that it happens) and lots of willful ignorance (deliberately remaining uninformed despite the existence of available information), both of which are disconnections from reality and thus far removed from the kaizen mind.

Lean is home to vast substanceless and flimsy training programs that do little or nothing to realize the vision of TPS and The Toyota Way or of Lean transformation. It seems that the principal benefit of such training is three-fold: 1) to make people feel better about themselves; 2) that they know more than others and are thus more erudite; and 3) in doing so elevate their status. These are the wrong benefits.

The correct benefit is: 1) helping others struggle less with their work so that they can feel mentally and physically better about their work; 2) knowledge — plus wisdom — that is put to use to creatively solve practical problems; and 3) teamwork versus status.

But we have to acknowledge an uncomfortable reality: As long as people need an income to live, this form of entrepreneurship — gold-to-lead reverse alchemy — will continue to thrive because the marketplace readily accepts it as needed and is willing to pay for it. From training participants’ perspective, the credentialing that comes from fluffy training adds value, but typically has little requirement to actually put what one learns into daily practice.

Gold to Lead2

Fortunately, a few of the younger generation have come to the rescue to ensure that gold does not keep turning into lead. It is really impressive to see a deeply dedicated person such as Bruno Vasquez doing the hard work of invalidating reverse alchemy by creatively synthesizing ideas combined with facts, wit, humor, and wisdom. I wish more people had Bruno’s sharp eye and strong determination for ennobling the gold and denouncing the lead! I hope that you will follow Bruno on LinkedIn and bookmark Leanstart – A Fábrica do Valor.

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