Below are five recent articles from across the web that we recommend reading as you reflect on your organization’s approach to lean transformation or your own approach to work. What are your picks for good articles or videos worth sharing? Please add them in the comments below!
1. “Lean Leadership Lessons and Gemba Visit to Toyota City, Japan“ by Katie Anderson
Lean coach Katie Anderson shares wisdom from Isao Yoshino, a 40-year Toyota executive and one of John Shook’s first managers at Toyota: “The most important thing for a manager or leader to believe in is the importance of kaizen. You don’t have to be an expert in the actual work process, but you must be serious about how to appreciate the concept of kaizen, of change and continuous improvement. Create trust. Be consistent. Celebrate the attempt, not the outcome. Failure is the source of so much learning.”
2. “The Engineer’s Lament,” by Malcolm Gladwell for The New Yorker
Engineers think differently. They are hard-wired for problem solving. Malcolm Gladwell explains how and why by delving deeply into the debate over automotive safety in the wake of the Toyota recall crisis (and Toyota’s response). “Toyota’s engineers approached the problem armed with the two concepts that define the engineer’s world: tolerances and specifications,” he writes. “A system’s tolerance is its ability to cope with changes and unplanned variation; systems need to be tolerant because you can never perfectly predict what stresses and unexpected behaviors they will encounter. Specifications are constraints. No one tells you to build a perfect car… imperfections and compromises are inevitable. The issue is how tolerant the car is of those imperfections and compromises.”
As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Jon Miller outlines the main reasons he hears from senior executives as to why they don’t go to the gemba or engage their teams in discussions about process improvement – reasons that mostly have to do with their own fear. “The senior executive often overvalues their own knowledge of the ‘rest of the business’ while undervaluing the gemba, and knowledge thereof,” writes Jon Miller. “They see time spent on the gemba as ‘below their pay grade.’ They fail to see that people and knowledge from the gemba are an untapped resource… Leaders who understand this asymmetry exploit it to their benefit. The gemba is a pure, bubbling brook of business insight just waiting to slake the thirst of executives for innovation and improvement.”
4. “Transformation Begins with the Individual” by Michael Stoecklin on the Center Point Blog
“There seems to be a belief that healthcare can merely copy what other industries have done, but I don’t think we know what to copy,” writes Michael Stoecklin, Executive Director of The ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value. For Stoecklin, “the true causes of the problem can be traced back to the prevailing style of management, which comes directly from the way we think,” he says. Stoecklin goes on to list some of the core management ideas and values underpinning organizational behavior he suggests we leave behind if we’re serious about creating healthcare organizations capable of creating more value for customers and community members.
In his first Yokoten column for Planet Lean, Jim Womack thoughfully answers a question he was asked recently: “What do I do about the anchor draggers in my organization, the people who seem to build up barriers to every aspect of our pursuit of lean enterprise no matter how hard I try to convince them?” First, Womack says, “try to assume that anchor draggers are good people with good intentions.”