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Is there “mudagement” in your organization?

by Tony Lamberton & Lean Leaper
June 15, 2016

Is there “mudagement” in your organization?

by Tony Lamberton & Lean Leaper
June 15, 2016 | Comments (1)

"Mudagement." What a strange word. But to Tony Lamberton, the concept behind that word has made all the difference in identifying invisible waste in his organization - and by extension, eliminating it through targeted coaching. Tony recently sat down with the Lean Post to share more about the concept of mudagement and the value it holds for all organizations:

What does “mudagement” refer to?

“Mudagement” is a term we have coined to describe the waste that occurs when your organisation is experiencing internal tension between philosophy and practice or long- and short-term policy. It leaves the workforce confused and unintentionally generates waste. Sometimes it is only transitional as new methods are brought in alongside existing practice.

Can you give me an example of mudagement?

A simple example would be a company which decides to operate flexible working hours for all, but management are still held to account for regular production targets which cannot be met if the flexible hours are fully taken up.

A more deep-rooted example would be the tension of creating a coaching culture of work but failing to adjust working practice, performance bonus and management systems. You’d likely see reduction in output, anecdotal complaints about contacting each other, and gaining attendance at meetings becoming more difficult. There might even be resentment from managers towards colleagues over the impact of flexible working systems on standardised work, which requires a team approach. Because the ethos had not been clearly established prior to the introduction, personal life pressures and opportunities would take priority over work commitment. These disparities between working practice and time could dominate actual productivity due to insufficient public metrics of output. 

Did you have a particular experience or situation that led you to coin the term “mudagement?”

The symptom has been given many names by those wiser than us, it just struck a chord with us as we were undergoing a full corporate review to increase coaching at all levels of our educational trust. A “muda hunt” is a stage of our PDCA cycle. Once the team has agreed on the recording framework and we have tested the value added and purpose statements, all are encouraged to identify waste and how it could be eliminated. Timing is critical: too soon and staff feel threatened and criticized (we learned this by experience). But at the right time they engage with excitement and are empowered to reinvest the time they have saved as they think best. We have found this is a pivotal point in creating an owned coaching environment. 

In tandem, we were doing a very specific piece of work with our complex needs children supported by Toyota UK. This required us to redefine purpose and staffing check against statutory duty and then apply lean. Essentially we started with the proposition that all management was muda and then worked it back. 

That’s an interesting philosophy. What makes you say that all management is muda?

I may cause a slight controversy saying that, but in our trust, learning is the outcome – and therefore we see all back office and management functions which do not directly enhance learning as either incidental waste or waste. “Mudagement” is more unintended corporate stupidity! 

How does one know that there is mudagement in their organization? What are some telltale warning signs?

Frustration, staff unclear about their core purpose, overcontrol and too many layers of decision-making, low productivity, inertia and despondency to name but a few highlights!

What are some effective remedies to remove mudagement?

Clarity, simplification and good communication are essential. Coaching empowers the workforce to design and introduce change for improvement. Really clear overarching goals are needed plus an understanding of the influence and consequence boundaries of introduced change. Part of the shift to becoming a coaching organisation is to define these and then work with teams to ensure that there is synergy between improvements. 

And once that coaching has happened, what would the newly non-mudagement organization look like?

Above all, the ethos will be explicit, embedded and regularly checked and shaped. To put it in context, I witnessed this ideal state outside our context recently while working with an architectural firm. The company itself felt relaxed, with strong underlying figures of productivity, meeting deadlines and outputs. It also had high attendance, loyalty and punctuality. It was only circa 30 employees but they were very clear on each other’s roles and strengths and there was free movement of work between staff. 

There’s a quote in the movie March of the Penguins that beautifully summarises this ideal state: “Every hour the penguins, with no management instruction, change positions to share hardship and warmth.”


The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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1 Comment | Post a Comment
Simon Dodds June 18, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this comment

I enjoyed this reading this post and I thank Peter Kidd for signposting me to it. My experience of attempts to introduce manufacturing-style "lean" into healthcare has not been positive and have often raised resistance rather than catalysed improvement. The term "waste" when directed at the work people do generates anger. Pointing the finger of blame at "management" as the root cause of the problem is  both disrepsectful and inaccurate and generates anger. However, there were three words that were used that give me hope. The first is "purpose" ... a system cannot improve itself if it has no clarity or constancy of purpose.  Both Deming and Ackoff were very clear about this.  The second is "design" ... a system has to be consciously designed to be fit-for-purpose. Design capability is not an innate skill ... it needs to be developed because it involves consciously challenging unconscious assumptions ... and we need frameworks to help us do the. The third is "coach" ... which is someone who is able effectuvely support others in developing their capabilites ... in this case improvement-by-design. Muri, mura and muda are the undesirable emergent properties of a complex adaptive system that is built on some flawed unconscious assumptions. The role of the coach is to gently bring these to conscious awareness so that they can be examined, disproved, unlearned and replaced with valid ones.  So, can we develop a generation of people embedded in every part of health care who have all their existing skills and also design and coaching capability? It appears that the answer to this is 'Yes' ... the evidence is accumulating (see Journal of Improvement Science).   

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