WLEI - Lean Enterprise Institute's Podcast
WLEI is the official podcast of the Lean Enterprise Institute.
You will hear stories from lean thought leaders, lean practitioners, and adjacent communities in various industries on many topics such as problem solving, coaching, leadership, meaningful work and more.
If you have a question you’d like answered on a future podcast, show feedback, or an idea you’d like to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg makes a bold promise in his new book, What’s Your Problem? (Harvard Business Review Press, 2020.) He seeks to upgrade people’s ability to solve problems by understanding how to solve the right problems. Learning to reframe problems can help people to stop chasing the wrong solutions, better understand what they are grappling with, and, in some cases find radically better solutions. Join us in listening to his insights on ways that everyone can boost their ability to solve the right problems.
Click here to download a full transcript of the conversation.
The global pandemic coupled with profound structural economic shifts are two daunting challenges reinforcing the need for a powerful method of framing and facing crucial problems today. Over the past year, our monthly podcast WLEI has aired conversations with Jim Womack, Dan Jones, Karen Gaudet, and other thought leaders exploring the power of lean—and adjacent schools of thought—as a source of promising countermeasures.
Lean can help people face problems both large (reviving healthy enterprise in this economy) and small (clarifying tangible ways to create workplaces that respect their workers). Thinkers such as Dan Heath discussed the power of solving problems completely--but more importantly, preventing them from happening in the first place. Author/coach Karen Gaudet explained how a disciplined system of standard work can create a workplace that is resilient enough to respond to unimaginable tragedy.
And while tackling external problems is vital, many individuals also noted the need for lean to squarely face its own challenges. Jim Womack addressed the perennial misunderstandings attributed to lean when things fall apart. Mark Deluzio led a conversation with Art Byrne and Jim Womack about the struggle to spark meaningful lean adoption. And Dan Jones proposed powerful ways of rethinking lean for the future.
These talks provide a wealth of insights for you to apply as practical tips—and ways to think deeper about your lean journey.
Professor Jeffrey Liker’s The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer has proved to be one of the most influential books of the lean movement—and beyond. He has just published a revised second edition of this classic resource that brings new thinking and context to his explanation of what makes this system so dynamic and enduring. Liker explains his emphasis on what scholar Takahiro Fujimoto calls its “superior evolutionary learning capability,” providing more grit and clarity on topics such as its organic (not mechanistic) nature. Listen to him discuss these topics with LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld in this new edition of the WLEI podcast.
You can download a pdf of the transcript here.
The long-term success of companies like Danaher, Fortive, Herman Miller, Parker Hannifin and many others, have all validated the power of lean thinking and practice. But if that’s the case, why aren’t there more exemplars? And why do so many companies either intentionally misconstrue Lean, or fail to realize its full promise over time?
Long-time Lean veteran Mark Deluzio has recently published Flatlined: Why Lean Transformations Fail and What to Do About It. Join him, Art Byrne, Jim Womack and host Tom Ehrenfeld in a wide-ranging conversation about the ongoing gap between operations at most companies—and an ideal Lean state.
Some highlights from their conversation:
Art Byrne (9:00): “Lean is not a cost reduction program. It's a strategy. And it's really kind of a cultural mentality of how you look at the business.”
Jim Womack (11:56): “We’ve got way too many guys who went to business schools and learned how to do functional analysis and listen to Michael Porter about how to be competitive which is by avoiding competition. And so we get the mess we got…But not all is lost. I mean, I think the challenge for us right now is to think through what options we might have going forward.”
Mark Deluzio (20:00): “This is not a cost reduction program, but, if you do all the other ones right, cost falls out of this automatically. It’s just a by-product. The problem is when there's a maniacal focus on cost. And that's wrong, because you've got to drive the drivers of costs that will get you the cost that you want….This is about profitable growth, not about cost reduction.”
Art Byrne (24:50): “So I think one of the things that any company—and any CEO—has to do first, is you need to define: what is operational excellence going to be for you? And it's not a bunch of KPI type of measurements. It's not things like increased gross margin by three points or some goofy thing like that. It's what I call driver measures. The things that you think, if you do these things over the next five or 10 years, you will have a completely different company.”
“Stretch goals represent the Toyota respect for people principle, because by having stretch goals, what you're really saying is, "I believe that my people can do extraordinary things if we give them the right targets and assist them in learning how to implement those," as opposed to most people say, "I can't give my people those kinds of stretch goals. I'll lose them, they'll just go away. They'll think it's impossible."
Mark DeLuzio (31:43): “If you want to make change, I really do believe you have to challenge people. You cannot be afraid to not offend somebody. And you want to be respectful, but people will get offended, because you're calling them out on it.”
Jim Womack (37:35): “Line managers themselves would have to actually understand their process and they would have to actually engage with their superiors in a discussion of how to improve their process….this is not hope as a plan. We're not talking about hope here. We're talking about: what are you going to do? And we've created a whole continent and a whole generation of managers who don't know anything about their process.”
Mark Deluzio (40:00): “Awada told me six sigma was ‘no good.’ 3.4 parts per million. Why do you accept that? Why not? Why aren't you thinking about zero? ‘3.4, no good.’ You do the math on airplanes. If the airlines flew at six sigma, we'd have a crash every three days.”
Art Byrne (47:25): “I think of Lean as a time-based growth strategy, because what it does really is every time you remove waste, you shorten the time it takes to do anything.”
“It’s only a failure if you don’t learn,” says Mr. Isao Yoshino, who shared many key lessons from his career at Toyota with Katie Anderson, who based her new book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn on his experience and insights. Join us for a podcast with host Tom Ehrenfeld that explores the lessons gleaned from his career at Toyota.
Download a complete transcript of the conversation here.