Lean conferences whether in-person or virtual, have become too expensive, too redundant in terms of content, feature too much vacuous cheerleading and unchecked storytelling, too big a batch size of people, too much passive listening, too little active participant engagement, too much groupthink, too little focus on the biggest problems of the day, and re-hash of information from the same Lean celebrities. Lean conferences, static for decades, must be improved to reflect dynamic changes in public and private institutions and the human condition. In particular, conferences must be elevated to a higher intellectual standard while remaining practical, providing spirited and satisfying engagement that leads to bountiful personal and professional ideation.
With this in mind, I initiated free Virtual Lean Mini-Conferences where a small number of participants are highly engaged in exploring the most important questions of the day — questions that reflect the ever-changing, evolving world we live in — marked by COVID-19, super-sized corporations, digitization, workplace surveillance, automation, wealth and poverty, our changing environment, and the needs and interests of the younger generations. It is a forum for freethinking.
The first Virtual Lean Mini-Conference was held on 3 September 2020. The questions posed were: “Is Lean dying?” and “Is Toyota still relevant?” Click here to view a blog post and slides summarizing the conference discussion.
The Second Virtual Lean Mini-Conference was held on 15 October 2020. The questions posed were: “Is Lean transformation still relevant?” and “Do you really need a Lean coach?” Click here to view a blog post and slides summarizing the conference discussion.
Virtual Lean Mini-Conferences take place via Zoom (not recorded to preserve participant’s anonymity). The format is as follows:
- The facilitator, Professor Emiliani, poses a question
- Group A presents arguments in favor of the question
- Group B presents arguments opposing the question
- Discussion and analysis of the “yes” and “no” arguments
- Repeat steps 1-4
Participants are informed of a pair of provocative questions before the Virtual Mini-Conference and assigned to the category of “yes” or “no.” They will formulate their arguments offline as teams Teams present up to two slides via screen sharing that contain their argument(s) “yes,” followed by teams and individuals who present the “no” argument(s) — supported by facts. Discussion and analysis will follow to comprehend different viewpoints and assimilate the learning into one’s future actions. The basic method is: Argument • Counterargument • Discussion • Learning. The above image details the process (click on image to enlarge).