Home > The Lean Post> Is Lean Thinking Art or Science? Yes

Is Lean Thinking Art or Science? Yes

by John Y. Shook
January 31, 2019

Is Lean Thinking Art or Science? Yes

by John Y. Shook
January 31, 2019 | Comments (20)

“Practice the art, respect the science.” – Jester King

Has the body of thought and practice known as “lean” too long mired itself myopically in the world of “science” to the exclusion of an equally, or even more, important dimension of human experience: art? If lean has been stuck in science class, what would happen if it wandered across campus to the art studio?

Those are big questions, indeed. To explore, leading thinker and coach on lean applications in the messy world of construction,Tom Richert convened a group of curious artists and musicians to engage in a surprising experiment: how would they respond to being introduced in a structured way to lean thinking & practice?

Tom’s landmark initiative has produced its first output with the publication of Lean Conversations: The Energy of the Creative Ethos in Your Life and Work. This book captured the inquiry and reflection of a group of artists who immersed themselves in the fundamentals of lean for three intensive days with the goal of better understanding ways to spearhead positive change by leveraging an artist’s sensibility. The title reveals little of the serious intent of Tom and his band of artisan collaborators, unless you think of the essence of the initiative as introducing a new type of conversation, like Stone/Patton/Heen’s Difficult Conversations or Patterson/Grenny/McMillan/Switzler’s Crucial Conversations or even David Bohm’s On Dialogue

“Something is missing from the lean dialogue: an artistic dimension with deep connections to the emotional and even spiritual sides of humans engaged deeply in their work.”So what is the conversation? It’s about linking lean thinking with art, for sure; and beyond that, linking it with emotion and even spirituality, too. Tom is convinced that these were elements of Toyota’s business system from the beginning, elements that have been lost as lean thinking has dispersed and diluted. I would not disagree. One of the provocative observations from the group of artists learning about lean is that “Lean is a way of thinking in search of a language.” Actually, though, even calling this way of working and thinking “lean” was an attempt at establishing a language to begin with. Study of Toyota’s ways of working was already underway before Womack and his global research team labeled it “lean production” and established it as the next paradigm of free enterprise in the late 1980s. Before the moniker “lean”, it was mostly called JIT (rhymed with hit), a selection of concepts and tools that quickly devolved into the deplorable OEM practice of pushing the holding of inventory onto suppliers.   

Essentially, lean is PDCA (the interpretation by a band of Japanese business and academic leaders in post-war Japan of a series of lectures by Deming) with a focus on developing capability to eliminate the nemeses of value creation – waste – in its various manifestations (Toyota named seven fundamental types of waste or “muda”) and attacking it at its ultimate source which exists at system and sub-system levels.

“We understand and practice PDCA better than you industry people,” is a key takeaway from this group's work. In the book they note that: “The potential for the Lean approach to create a very desireable human system of work appealed to the members of the workshop because there was a focus on helping the individual use work to develop and grow. In this sense, Lean mirrors the creative ethic they rely upon in their artistic work.”

"One of the provocative observations from the group of artists learning about lean is that 'Lean is a way of thinking in search of a language.'” I referred to Tom’s work (which I like to call “Lean and the Arts”) as a landmark initiative. One of the unexpected observations that emerged related to the underserved “emotional” and even “spiritual” dimensions of lean thinking & practice. Tom and his band of artists argue that the narrow if powerful set of technical tools that comprise most lean practices are fine as far as they go. They make technical matters technically better.  

Many of us have long argued that lean practices without the underlying thinking are stripped of their power to transform and make any situation better. They aren’t lean at all without the thinking that engages the practitioner in a process of continuous self-improvement.  

Tom argues that even adding the “thinking” dimension still falls short. Even with the thinking, lean practices represent logical thinking and rational approaches to problem solving and decision making. Scientific thinking, if you will. Tom argues that there is something still missing: an artistic dimension with deep connections to the emotional and even spiritual sides of humans engaged deeply in their work.

This argument reminded me of an experience ten years ago when David Verble and I taught the first pilot of the Managing to Learn (MTL) workshop. At David’s suggestion, we developed a workshop based on a mix of my MTL book, Toyota’s A3 Process, Toyota problem-solving approaches, and coaching & learning devices such as questioning based on Edgar Schein’s four types of humble inquiry. Since then we have added additional touches such as Schein’s taxonomy of four types of questions and a dose of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast & Slow. We’ve always felt the whole process was underpinned by not only Toyota but also by John Dewey. And Steve Spear should be given his fair share of credit, too.  The workshop itself has been taught and improved by many including Margie Hagene, Eric Ethington, Jack Billi, and Tracey Richardson, and who knows how many people at how many companies. Most recently, an energetic team at LEI has developed a wonderful “MTL Remotely” distance learning version (by the way, it’s great!).

Back to the first time David and I taught the two-day workshop for LEI, in LA in 2009. I recall a lively exchange with one enthusiastic participant. I had suggested that, even as we moved toward more fact-based decision-making, there was still a place for intuition (for a related thought, see this week's Post Cultivating Intuition at the Gemba.) That suggestion greatly disturbed one participant: “But that just lets us devolve back to where we started – making decisions based on opinion rather than data. That’s exactly what we need to get away from.”

My reply, which failed to satisfy him, was this: “all this work to be clear about our thinking – the work to gather the real facts at the real place, to clarify decision criteria so we can think together and discuss/debate effectively and respectfully rather than talking past and over each other, with decisions made based on positions of authority and loudness of voice rather than on a consensual view of what steps we can take to close knowledge gaps (option gaps, too) and learn what we need to learn – doesn’t eliminate all intuition. This work enables a more scientific approach to problem solving, sure, but it also serves to make our intuitions better. There is still a place for passionate advocacy and for holistic reading of situations so that decisions simply ‘feel right’. David’s “lean epistemology” questions entail both quantitative (just the facts, please) and qualitative (how do we feel about this?) dimensions: “What do you know and how do you know it? What do you need to know and how can you learn it?”

Looking back I think this is one of the things Tom Richert is getting at with his admonition that we not forget the emotional side of human engagement in organizations. Point well taken, Tom. (Besides, maybe the scientific method is a myth.)

As I heartily recommend this book, I should caution and Tom would agree, that this inaugural product is only a first baby step. If Jean Cocteau’s famous observation that “art is science made clear” has meaning, we can all benefit from further exploration of the relationship between lean thinking and art & science. I suggest you read the book, let it sink in, ponder it slowly (not letting instinct take over and jump to conclusions) and join me in hoping for a next installment from Tom and his band of artists. 

Is lean thinking art or science? Yes.

*Jester King - My favorite craft beer brewery, half an hour outside of Austin, Texas.

 

Join John Shook, Jim Womack, Jean Cunningham, Amy Edmondson, Ann Mei Chang, and many other thought leaders at the 2019 Lean Summit, March 27-28 in Houston, TX. 

Keywords:  creativity,  culture,  innovation,  reflection,  TPS
Was this post... Click all that apply
HELPFUL
7 people say YES
INTERESTING
18 people say YES
INSPIRING
11 people say YES
ACCURATE
7 people say YES
Related Posts
20 Comments | Post a Comment
Bob Emiliani January 31, 2019

Lean has been the victim of the quantitative, "data-driven decision," mindset that has been the basis for business decision-making for the last 30 years. This has resulted in a great imbalance between quantitative and qualitative information processing capabilities, leading to inferior decisions. The imbalance must be corrected. That is why in my work for the last 20 years, I have focused on teaching students to not ignore qualitative information and to substantially sharpen their qualitative information processing skills. Qualitative thinking has become a lost art, one that needs to be regained to restore balance in the comprehension of reality and to improve decision-making. That said, there is much art in science by way of ideation and subsequent processes that eventually lead to some desired improvement.

Reply »

Arthur T Smalley February 08, 2019

Hi John,

Great article. I think it will cause good discussion and people to reflect which I assume is part of the intent. The title however I think it is a semantics trap :-)  and not an "Art” Or “Science" question? In know this may sound evasive but I think it is both. The problem comes down to definition and implied meaning...I will try to explain.

It is easier for most of us to think of lean thinking as science...I have many presentations that state this going back 15+ years. That invokes things like cause and effect, standards, experimentation, measurement, comparison, etc. etc. All good stuff and definitely part of lean.

On the flip side many of my scientist friends in the national labs however strongly object to the notion that lean or lean thinking is science...If it were really "science" in their view it would be measurable, independent of the observer, peer reviewed, and always reproducible in experiment, etc. etc. Lean does not meet their definition of hard science in their estimation. Simply having a “process” or “method” or “experiment” in their view does not mean you have actual science. I respectfully get their viewpoint.

A lot of lean (CI + respect for people framework) is also people centric and in that sense, it is a stretch, but possible to call it “social science” at best ...again it comes back to what definition of science is being applied.

Back to my opening comment I think this is semantics.  I think there is some "art in science" and "science in art".  The confusion starts at the definition level. Take even the sub level discussion of problem solving inside of Lean / Toyota. What you and I call Type 1 and Type 2 problem solving is *relatively* more cause and effect (quasi science) centric while Types 3 and 4 are *relatively* more open ended and creative (quasi artful) centric.

I look forward to reading the book. I will be at the National Labs again next week. I could gather some comments and possible short follow up article if you are interested.

 

Reply »

John Shook February 11, 2019

Thanks for sharing, Art. Yes, semantic pitfalls are all over the place here. We aren’t going to settle any art vs science debate here. That’s neither the intention nor the point. I avoided even trying to define terms: science, scientific method, scientific thinking, art, artistic sensibility. Those debates usually either create false dichotomies or go overboard in declaring that there’s no distinction between the two at all. In fact, in the Introduction to the book, I take exception with some of Tom’s use of terms. But, that’s all beside the point. Tom simply asked what would happen if you introduced lean thinking to a group of artists, so he took a gaggle of artists with him to visit Toyota and they came back declaring that the roots of lean are to be found in its spirit, and also that PDCA is more artistic than it is “scientific”. Tom makes no claims on any art vs science debate beyond sharing these simple observations.
Yes, please share what you find at the National Labs. More exchange of thinking with more communities is surely a good thing for all.

Reply »

Mike Rother January 31, 2019
1 Person AGREES with this comment

I agree there is a dimension missing in the Lean community, and I think at this stage of the game the Lean community may not yet be ready to make definitions of "science." See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqEmkp2zL6s

Scientific thinking cannot be separated from the expression and application of human creative skill and imagination. If we try to do that, then we are no longer talking about scientific thinking. Scientific thinking is a way of seeing the world, that enables creativity.

Defining any 'thinking' is difficult, because it's kind of nebulous and organic. Scientific thinking is not a purely logical, rational approach to problem solving and decision making. But - and here is the rub - one may need to practice some logical, rational approach to problem solving and decision making at the start in order to get to scientific thinking, i.e., in order to reach the level of a master's intuition.

It's a Catch-22 we fall into again and again. To acquire new skill and mindset we need to practice, and often in an awkward-feeling, mechanical sort of way at first. And then we mistake the mechanical practice routines as the thing itself. Maybe we do this because our brains are programmed to feel certain, whereas scientific thinking, art, and many other aspects of thinking are difficult to pin down.

For instance, you might practice something called the "scientific method" as a means to developing greater scientific thinking. Unfortunately, it's easy for our brains to latch onto such concrete methods, rather than letting ourselves stay afloat in the uncertainty of something nebulous.

An example from the Lean community is how its members sometimes take sides and argue about whether Plan/Do/Check/Act should say "Check" or "Study." The PDCA or PDSA cycle is just a mechanical model, a training pattern, to help you develop a way of thinking. We have tended to focus on the training pattern rather than on the way of thinking we are trying to develop. Pick a training routine, start practicing, and develop your thinking. They may all lead to a similar place eventually.

On the road ahead for humans there may be less arguing about taxonomy and more experimenting with and arguing about how to develop ways of thinking. That's what Toyota Kata and its many thousands of practitioners are doing, and enjoying doing.

Reply »

Jeff Liker January 31, 2019
1 Person AGREES with this reply

Mike makes a great point.  Even PDCA as it is often rigidly practiced is a starter on the road toward mastery. In any complex craft or skill the starting point is fundamental skills which you build on.  I have been studying classical guitar for years which is quite rigid compared to Jazz, rock, etc.  You play the notes as they were written by the composer.  You start by doing many drills and practicing study pieces and work your way to mechanically playing complex pieces using the fundamental skills.  It takes a great deal of work and mastery to get to the point of interpretation which is the creative expression.  Toyota follows the same iterative learning logic as PDCA when engineers create a new product never seen by the world like the first Lexus, the first Prius, and new battery technology.  It is extremely innovative but they do not leap to the big challenge, but rather learn their way there step by step reflecting on each step.  That is playing in the big leagues and a new engineer just starting out will take on a much smaller challenge. The challenge is one way to get creativity. If the challenge such as Prius is great--1/2 the fuel consumption with a spacious interior and affordable car--the engineers cannot simply mechanically modify what they already have. They have to leap into very bold ideas, which they did, helping to set them up for the 21st century.

Reply »

Rob January 31, 2019
1 Person AGREES with this reply

little apprehensive commenting on this board among the folks that I still have so much to learn from but have been fascinated by this subject for years and can’t help myself.
Believe that structured patterns of thinking with experimental learning and creative thinking are part of the same path. The issue is that this process is difficult to articulate in the post industrial world. When we look at a traditional model used for thousands of years we can see the historical approach. This approach used phases to introduce an individual to their trade. Starting out as an apprentice the individual was expected to follow their coach through standard methods and patterns of thinking. Once the trade was mastered it appeared that the individual used intuition to develop novel approaches but it was rooted in the patterns learned. My lesson learned is to ensure team members have a structure method to practice scientific thinking. Once developed creativity flows.

Reply »

Karyn Ross January 31, 2019
2 People AGREE with this comment

In 2013, here in the Lean Post, I published an article called PDCA: The Scientific Method or the Artistic Process? (https://www.lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=62) As a practicing artist with a MFA in Sculpture...and a Lean practitioner...I'm glad to see this discussion taking place.

It was honor to be part of Tom's Lean from the Arts Perspective Workshop! It was a great workhop, and it's a great book!

Many people think that art and creativity are purposeless or useless. They aren't. They're vital. Through discipline and practice (like PDCA), anyone - and everyone - can turn creative ideas into practical solutions. Solutions that can make their organization, their work, and our world a better place!

I call that Practical Creativity!

Reply »

John Shook February 02, 2019

Thanks for your comments, everyone, and sorry to reply late. It’s best to reply one-at-a-time (better quality, more respectful of you), but I wasn’t able to so I’ll batch my replies.

First, I want to encourage everyone to read the book. It’s very interesting. Tom isn’t trying to push a new grand theory. He had an interesting question, ran an interesting experiment, and shares the results in his book.

Tom makes no claim (nor certainly would I) that there is no creativity or fun taking place out in the Lean community (however broadly or narrowly defined). Whether PDCA or PDSA or kaizen or kata or A3 thinking or LPPD or Agile/Scrum or Design Thinking or whatever. There is certainly no shortage of attempts to parse concepts differently and come up with new terminology (and packages) to sell, however well-intentioned to correct for the many imbalances.

But, critical to this discussion vis a vis your comments above, Tom isn’t addressing just “creativity vs ‘efficiency’” or “social vs technical” or “quantitative vs qualitative” or any such dichotomy. In the beginning, I too tried to frame Tom’s questions into categories I often use. And, I challenged some of his terms and definitions; even in my foreword to the book, I suggest that what Tom calls “science” – which in the end is indeed a creative process – might better be termed “technical” or even “engineering”. For example, the four types of problems framework acknowledges a place for both “reactive” and “creative” problem solving.

But, Tom is going beyond all that in raising questions about artistic dimensions (recalling and directly in the spirit of Karen’s outstanding Lean Post from 2013; thanks for pointing us back to that, Karen – I should have referenced it in my Post!) and emotional dimensions (that’s not exactly the same as “artistic” and certainly not just “creative”) and even (gulp) “spiritual” dimensions (Tom found that a critical spiritual dimension emerged in his study of early Toyota) of work and enterprise. We can tackle problems with scientific creativity and we can practice scientific forms, but will that make us artists, will it increase our emotional intelligence and unleash the artist within? These were Tom’s questions as I understand and paraphrase (and possibly misrepresent!) them.


Having raised the questions, Tom did exactly as suggested – he ran an experiment. The book mainly just chronicles what happened. Tom framed his broader question into a problem to address with an experiment. The question became, “what would happen if you introduced a group of artists to lean thinking and Toyota?” and the experiment was thusly not a hypothesis-based scientific method experiment (one kind of experiment) but a “what happens if…?” experiment.

Reading the book is similar to reading the proceedings of one of the old Cybernetics conferences – he chronicles the dialogue of the artists as they encounter lean thinking. In the end, Tom makes no grand claims of uncovering a new theory. But, he does argue that we not ignore the artistic/emotional/spiritual sides of “lean” or improvement or business in general.

Anyway, I hope a lot of people read the little book; I hope others come up with similar questions to explore and share their learning, and; I hope Tom runs experiment 2.0. 

Reply »



Reply »

Bob Emiliani February 04, 2019

Hi John - I think you may have misunderstood the point I was trying to make, which is, in the 30+ year era of "What gets measured gets managed" (quantitative thinking) that Lean has existed in, the art in Lean (emotional and spiritual dimensions) has been poorly understood, unrecognized, unwanted, etc. - particularly in large corporations - and has thus inhibited both people development (discovery and  learning) and business results. So, I agree, Lean is both science and art, the latter being long in need of additional focus.

Reply »

Tom Richert February 06, 2019

First, a huge thank you to John and LEI for supporting this experiment and encouraging subsequent work. John’s personal engagement in the conversation with this group of artists was both generous and illuminating. Additional thanks to Karyn Ross, David Verble and Deb McGee for their participation during and feedback following the workshop. There were also conversations with Niklas Modig and Robert Martichenko. It was a fascinating three days, and I am certain that due to their non-lean background the artists cannot fully appreciate the world class nature of the lean primer they received.

 

The workshop, book, and subsequent work would not have happened had it not been for a chance conversation. When I found myself across the table from Joanna McGuffey, an artist as well as business consult, I asked her what how an artist might interpret lean. Not having been exposed to lean before that conversation she suggested we go get some artists and ask (duh – go see). Joanna also facilitated that six-hour conversation the artists held at the end of the workshop, and had significant input into my reflections on the insights gleamed from the workshop.

 

John commented about the struggle in with defining the issues in the book as a contrast of artist with the scientist. This kind of contrast attempts to draw a hard boundary were at best the lines are fuzzy. The contrast may more accurately have to do with how we each emphasize either our intellectual or spiritual natures; something that had not occurred to me when I framed ‘what would an artist say’ question.

 

I was surprised on the last day of a workshop when the artists asserted that “the roots of lean are arts and spirituality.” They were discussing with John his wonderful double-funnel slide illustrating ingredients, incubation, diffusion of Toyota’s way working. While the slide includes a broad array of influences, for the artists it was clear that arts and spirituality was the source of it all.

 

The day before that conversation the artists had toured the Toyota factory in Georgetown, following a terrific orientation David Verble provided. Expecting to find themselves touring the insides of a machine they instead they found themselves inside a community. Seeing lean in action they observed a disconnect between this lean example of work, teeming with life, and the words they heard used to describe lean.

 

Many of us are rooted in centuries long reliance on reason as existential. “I think, therefore I am.” We join John in a collective gulp at the notion of including spirituality in work because in being beyond reason spirituality makes many of us uncomfortable, especially in a work context. Yet if one understands spirituality as some version “love God and love your neighbor,” then perhaps we can come full circle in understanding that lean is about establishing a unity in work, in which all action is directed at a shared purpose.

 

If not the words, at least in spirit, one can imagine Sakichi Toyoda saying “I am, therefore I must think about how to best serve my neighbor.” The precepts attributed to him and recorded by his son and son-in-law reportedly inform work at Toyota to this day, albeit in a more contemporary form. All this suggests the possibility that when lean works mind and spirit are integrated, which ultimately may be the ‘secret’ of Toyota’s sustained inter-generational success.

Reply »

Monica Rossi February 02, 2019
2 People AGREE with this comment

Both: PDCA - Plan Do Check Art!

Reply »

Mike Rother February 02, 2019
1 Person AGREES with this reply

Ha! That's brilliant. :-)

Reply »

John Shook February 02, 2019
1 Person AGREES with this reply

LOL - I'll tell Tom Richert that he's got the title of his next book :-)

Reply »

Mark Rosenthal February 04, 2019

If we look at how science is actually practiced by the people we call "scientists" we see intuition playing a huge role. It is intuition that drives the next hypothesis and experiment. "Huh... that's funny. I wonder what is happening?"

Digging in a little more, we call the grid of blocks that typically organize problem-solving a "storyboard." Story is a narrative that, at the deepest level, reflects change in the way the characters view and respond to the world around them.

We are asking the problem solver to tell the story of what is happening (and hopefully the impact it is having on people). Then asking her to tell another story about what she wants to be happening - we call that a "target condition." 

If it isn't a compelling story, there is no emotional hook, it becomes rote execution, there is no personal growth or learning, and the process falters - because we fail to engage emotionally

We all talk about "engaged workforce," and "engaged leaders" but then tend to describe "engaged" as actions people would take. "Engaged" doesn't happen without the implied modifier "emotionally engaged."

Emotional engagement is what art is all about. An artist that is not emotionally engaged is just a painter.

It is that humanly unique drive to create something that connects us to others that drives creativity - which means problem solving.

In business we work all to hard to take the feelings out of the conversations, and even to shut down the conversations by trying to turn everything into an algorithm of "just do your job."

How many organizational structures exist to stop people from talking to each other, when we want just the opposite. The "lean" message has been turned into an algorithm of process charactaristics - just make it look like this, and you'll be "lean." 

I applaud this conversation, even more so coming from the LEI. It is long overdue. It isn't a "machine that changed the world." It is people who changed the world by working together in a powerful, connected way - enabled by a set of practices and principles that help them see what to talk about, and structure the conversations.

Reply »

John Shook February 11, 2019

Mark, I hope you had a chance to read Tom Richert’s reply, above, with his words describing the artists’ reaction after visiting Toyota: “Expecting to find themselves touring the insides of a machine they instead they found themselves inside a community.” Pretty cool. Their words harken back to how Toyota’s ways of working were first described, especially by early observers at NUMMI, when the message was all about “teamwork”, mutual trust, and employee engagement. Anyone out there who hasn’t read Paul Adler’s work in the early 90s on enabling structures (variously called “Democratic Taylorism”, Time & Motion Regained”, “Learning Bureaucracy”, etc.) should check it out (rather than me giving you you a link, just google it and see what you find). But, there's engagement of the level most HR departments talk of and there are the deeper levels of engagement that become possible when the "spirit" of lean thinking grabs you. I applaud the conversation and glad to hear you do, too. 

Reply »

Tracey Richardson February 08, 2019

Coming from the early side of Toyota sharing their internal DNA (their Art) with us in N.America and how we were all learning something together that was very "people-centric" yet enabled us to have the "results" many long for these days and focus on when its not as necessary answer to the problem. "Lean" (continuous development and understanding of people) was evolving then before it was really called "Lean".   Our trainers would say and John would agree (I think ;), that a good process that engages people to think and improve, will by default, nudge you towards the results you seek.   Our development of intuition (thanks John for sharing that post), and our ability to understand how to involve, engage and empower very facet of people and their power to influence the result through a process (document pattern, routine, work etc) no matter what. is the key to many doors to successfully moving the needle on a climate or culture in any genre of industry.   The people we are blessed to serve these days are evolving us (Ernie and I) to the need of organizations today transforming their thinking versus several years ago.  The power of the now and presence with people and their work (their art) they do each day can help us not create the "wrinkled sheets of paper" from #Lean18 :)

Reply »

John Shook February 11, 2019

Thanks for the helpful thoughts, Tracey. It turns out these aren’t easy things to talk about. Words fail. That’s why the tried & true *gemba, genchi genbutsu, learn-by-doing* focus remains so critical. It’s not just knee-jerk raw intuition we need; it’s intuition that is gemba-validated through hard work that will help us weave our way to better results through processes that develop capability and change thinking along the way (acting our ways to new ways of thinking). Or something like that. So we end up creating fewer wrinkled sheets of paper :-)

Reply »

Tom Lane February 08, 2019

I began doing "lean" before it was called lean at Cummins in the early 80's.  We had help from Komatsu, Dr. Ishakawa, and others.  What I saw early on was that it was a shift of consciousness to do this well.  From the shop floor to the senior exec, I was attempting to show that awareness of process (spc, jit,etc, are process tools) and system.  How all aspects of the company system needs to align to support the gemba.  The hardest part was the leadership and culture.  My book, "The Way of Quality" came out when I was with Kaizen Institute.  Still relevant to this day.  I have been retired from pushing the noodly uphill for 18 years.  Good luck out there.

Reply »

John Shook February 11, 2019

Thanks for checking in, Tom Lane, formerly of Cummins and Kaizen Institute. Glad this discussion prompted you, from your calm retired state, to write in and share your thoughts about the shift in consciousness including the whole mind & whole organization approach that’s needed for lean thinking to fulfill its full promise.

Reply »

Tom Lane February 12, 2019

  One more point.  I guess I would see "lean" as both art and science, like some have said, but for me the real issue is "control or support".  Don't like "or" very often, but the real leadership/culture issue is control. 

    If managers can't shift from the control mentality to support, then all this is going nowhere.  Back in the 90's I was escorting some US auto execs thru world class plants in Japan.  In the Q@A after the tour, some asked the plant manager what the ratio of superivor to worker was.  His answer 1 to 80-90. The US exec sitting next to me leaned over and said, that is BS.  Everyone knows the span of control is 1-15 or so. 

    So I asked the plant manager to speak to this, and he simply said,"our supervisors do  not control anyone, the workers are self controlling, they are only there for support".   The absolute blank look on the exec beside me was very telling.  In all my years doing this, I could never get many to relenquish the command and control mentality.  Thanks for letting me share.  Tom

Reply »

Cost Reduction, Waste, and Purpose
Lesson From Japan: Day Five
Yes, Lean is About Cost Reduction