Column Archive: 2012

  • Why isn’t there more emphasis on lean engineering?
    December 17, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,  Why isn’t there more emphasis on lean engineering? More »
  • How do I convince senior management to visit the shop floor?
    November 30, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,How do I convince my senior management to get interested in our kaizen projects? In fact, how can I simply convince them to visit the shop floor? More »
  • How can we reconcile the lean principle of respect for people with our disrespectful atmosphere?
    November 26, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachMy company's lean program stigmatizes competent people as “concrete heads” for disagreeing with the lean coaches, even when the coaches' prescriptions make no business sense. What used to be a good work atmosphere is now poisoned by resentment and distrust. How can that be compatible with the “respect for people” message that you say is so central to lean?  More »
  • How do we mid-level managers convince the CEO and senior management that adopting lean practices is worthwhile?
    November 2, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,  The recent webinar on the business case for lean was particularly useful for us because it raised many questions and provided a lot of common sense insight.  I'm an administrator taking lean certification training at a primary care network. How do we as mid-level "operators" convince our CEO and senior management that adopting lean practices and thinking are worthwhile?  More »
  • What would a lean transformation mean for the IT Department? What benefits would it create for the company?
    October 28, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachWe’ve asked our IT department to be involved in kaizen events several times, but it is always very slow to deliver on what is asked.  What would a lean transformation mean for this department? What benefits would it create for the company?  More »
  • Do lean-minded finance professionals make a difference in appraising lean initiatives?
    October 19, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach, Good webinar, thank you. I would like to ask lean-minded fellow finance professionals if they make a difference in appraising lean initiatives from other investments in their companies,  e.g. different project and investment appraisal techniques, hurdle rates, etc.? More »
  • Why do we need to discuss making the business case for lean?
    September 28, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,I saw the invitation to your October 10 webinar on Making the Business Case for Lean.  I wonder why we even need such a discussion. Isn’t making the business case a fundamental competency for any manager or executive leading a lean transformation? Why do you even need to discuss it? More »
  • How Do the Problems of Continuous Improvement Professionals Differ from Those of Line Managers
    September 7, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,How do the lean-related problems or responsibilities of ci professionals differ from those of line managers or business unit managers?That is a profound question that links back to one of the fundamental differences between lean and traditional management. The difficulty here is one of unspoken management assumptions, and hence hard to tackle precisely because they are not in the conversation to start with. I’ve addressed this issue before, so please bear with me as I try… More »
  • How Should We Relate Lean Projects to KPIs in a Large Company?
    July 26, 2012
    We have started a continuous improvement process with dedicated lean experts at each site. Until now our focus was on training. We link projects to a site impact-priority matrix. Management wants the improvements projects to be linked to key performance indicators (KPIs) such as on-time delivery and cost of quality. They want these KPIs identified, and progress reported on how the projects impactthe KPIs monthly. Could you guide me on how this can be done? More »
  • Are Lean Managers Teaching Or Just Controlling?
    July 18, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,I hear what you lean guys are saying about, learning, “kata” and the role of managers as teachers. But in my years at Toyota I was never taught much. I learned a lot, but what my manager would mostly do is check the details of what I did and ask a lot of questions. I felt that it was very controlling. More »
  • Can Lean Boost Sales?
    July 11, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,Every one says that lean is not just about cost cutting. But I fail to see how lean techniques can influence the top line. How can lean help in this area? More »
  • How Can Our Back Office Sustain Lean?
    July 3, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,The improvement program at the back office of the bank where I am a lean facilitator is slipping. For t several years, we have improved operations by visualizing daily performance, conducting daily briefs, and teaching team leaders to solve problems. We have progressed visibly in quality and productivity. But our progress is harder to sustain. Teams that were doing great slip back and we must constantly regain lost ground. Is there a way to make lean more sustainable? More »
  • Can you help us define the role of team leader?
    June 19, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachMy lean team is creating a team leader role, and we are struggling to define this function accurately, not to mention that we are having trouble finding our places. Any advice? More »
  • Kaizen and Innovation
    June 12, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,Can kaizen stifle breakthrough innovation? More »
  • Real lean vs. fake lean
    June 6, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,I am a lean consultant who is totally dedicated to applying the lean principles. Unfortunately most lean gurus who I encounter seem to look down on our work. They argue that consultants like me don’t do “real” lean.  Where do you weigh in on this? Are they being too snobby? Should I work to be more authentic in my practice? More »
  • How do you suggest we should do lean in a foundry?
    May 22, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach, How do you suggest we should do lean in a foundry? More »
  • It seems that lean these days is all about learning and coaching. What about the good ol'-fashioned just-in-time stuff of the earlier days?
    May 2, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,It seems that lean these days is all about learning and coaching. What about the good ol'-fashioned just-in-time stuff of the earlier days? More »
  • What's the difference between model lines and kaizen events?
    April 26, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachWe used to do six sigma and are new to lean. Some consultants talk to us about model lines and others about kaizen events. Can you clarify the difference? More »
  • Management has a bad case of investment loss aversion. What can I do?
    April 18, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachI’ve been asked to take over the corporate lean program but the company’s investment plan favors large high-speed equipment, which I’ve come to see as one of our biggest roadblocks to leaner processes. But I’ve been told in no uncertain terms by senior management that I can’t denigrate past investment commitments or cast doubts on those which are currently planned. How do I respond to my superiors? More »
  • Should I Use Lean for Headcount Reduction?
    April 10, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,My company wants to reduce its fixed costs. And as part of this my management has asked me to apply the lean techniques we’ve implemented in production to reduce headcount in engineering. I’m uneasy about doing this and wondered where I can find out more about lean in engineering departments. More »
  • How Do I Address Resistance From Middle Management?
    March 27, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,Why does middle management resist lean transformations; how can they be brought on board? More »
  • How Do I Reduce Buffers To Zero?
    March 20, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachI run an assembly line for service station equipment. Our product is customized for each customer so we have a huge variety of options. My line is organized in segments (hydraulic assembly, wiring, etc.) with a buffer between each section of the line. I’ve long tried to reduce these buffers but haven’t found any good way to do it. Our lean consultant wants me to reduce the buffers to zero so that we have true one piece flow – should I do it? More »
  • Why Is It So Hard To Sustain Lean Gains?
    March 13, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,Why is it so hard to sustain lean gains? More »
  • Can Hospitals Reap the Deeper Benefits of Lean?
    February 29, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachAs Health Systems globally wrestle with skyrocketing healthcare costs, many hospitals are jumping on the lean bandwagon, hoping this will be the silver bullet that delivers improved outcomes at lower cost. Is this a valid justification for implementing lean in hospitals, or is the cost-saving rationale as a driver of the process doomed to failure? More »
  • Lean and Forecasting
    February 22, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,I’m in charge of the forecasting department in my company. My colleagues in production have been doing lean for several years and complain about my forecasts, particularly when it comes to what they call leveling. I have come across your column on and wondered if you could help out with some advice on how to forecast in a lean way? More »
  • How should I assess the success of our lean progress?
    February 14, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,My management is asking for an assessment of our lean progress. How should I do this? More »
  • Five Whys
    February 7, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,I’m a lean coach and teach A3s in my company. Every lean book mentions “5 why,” and I can see the power of it in theory but I struggle with it in practice. Any tips? More »
  • Gemba and Quality
    February 1, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,We’ve made good progress on quality with Six Sigma, but we’ve reached a plateau. I’ve met a lean consultant who tells me I should spend more time on the shop floor, but I fail to see how it would improve quality? More »
  • Which is best for a lean environment, a U-shaped cell or assembly line? Why?
    January 25, 2012
    Dear Gemba CoachWhich is best for a lean environment, a U-shaped cell or assembly line? Why? More »
  • Should we plan according to what we can do, or the other way around?
    January 18, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,Should we plan according to what we can do, or the other way around? More »
  • How Do I Plan for the Long Term?
    January 11, 2012
    Dear Gemba Coach,I don’t know how to plan for two or five years out. As a plant manager, my requirement is to be able to look at the next 12 months. And to do this I rely on guidance from a familiarity with lean policy deployment. Yet I worry that my skills in leadership are lacking because I don’t have a clear sense of how to conduct this long-term planning. How do I look ahead for the long term? More »