I am picking up some more knowledge about Lean Thinking and the Toyota Production System (TPS). But I am also seeing a lot of partial information and downright incorrect information out there. One thing I've come across, even amongst avid Lean practitioners is the idea that organizations want to "be lean." Taken out of context, it's easy to get this comment wrong, which then reflects back to Lean itself.
In a quick experiment, I asked on Twitter what it means to "be Lean" for an organization. Here are some of the responses I received:
- hjarche: @jackvinson lean = to have no slack so that in the event of a catastrophe the whole org crumbles
- Metaphorage: I agree @hjarche @jackvinson Lean has no internal "redundancy" bad #KM strategy as increases risk of loss & reduces performance.
- roanyong: @Metaphorage @hjarche @jackvinson I thought good/best practice fit nicely to lean thinking. it is not a bad #km, depends on the objective
- roanyong: @Metaphorage @hjarche @jackvinson Lean -> has evolved. not just about killing redundancy - but reaching org goals with utmost efficiency
- hjarche: @roanyong @Metaphorage @jackvinson many fields have evolved; now they need to merge
- Metaphorage Agreed @hjarche merging different fields drive efficiency and innovation. Just how far to push it that matters. @roanyong @jackvinson
- Metaphorage: Maybe @roanyong Depends who defines "utmost efficiency" Finance or #KM. One source of knowledge is a BIG risk @hjarche @jackvinson
- ericblue: @jackvinson Lean? In my mind it means "just enough" process & organizational structure to deliver quality as quickly as possible
- randallito: @jackvinson your online organizer also processes payroll and changes the tp in the bathroom.
- CoCreatr: @jackvinson there are ni dumb questions, only dumb answers. http://j.mp/hBN8yU
Granted, most of these folks are friends from knowledge management arenas, but look at Harold Jarche's (hjarche) quote that spawned a bit of back-and-forth. Sadly, this is often what happens with Lean implementations, when people focus too much on the "remove waste" mantra at all costs. Or they simply want to create a "lean organization" and translate that into giving everyone more work than they can possibly complete.
Eric Blue's description is an interesting one. I don't know if Lean people would use that phrasing, but it gets closer to what you want to see.
What is my response? As of today, I see Lean from the its pieces as a means to eliminate waste and create flow through an organization or on a shop floor. There are also a number of techniques, with Kanban being the one I've been hearing / reading about most often. I also hear from people who practice Lean that there is something more: there is an over-arching philosophy around long-term viability of the business. That's something I still need to understand better, as that is where there is a much closer alignment to what I have been doing with Theory of Constraints. There are a number of Lean books in my backlog.
[Photo: "leaning" by acute tomato]