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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The people in the organization must learn a new way of thinking and acting, what also means unlearning, which is more difficult then learning for the first time

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, July 1, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

There is a lot of good advice from my colleagues. I would like to be the voice of reason and suggest that you are correct that this is a big challenge. The way I learned to deal with a challenge is to break it down into pieces and deal with it piece by piece, the basis of Toyota Business Practices.

The problem is as follows: You have many different organizations with their own functional leadership spread across America. We know that to significantly transform a single organization, like a plant or a software organization, takes dedicated senior leadership, a lean coach, and 2-3 years developing line management to become lean leaders and understand how to utilize the tools for improvement. So why would it take less time for 1/2 dozen and more organizations. Spreading across many different groups that operate like their own business does not take less time then dealing with just one. If you have the same amount of lean coaching resources then 6 business units ought to take 6 times as long as one business unit. In each one the leadership from the top down have to be developed and taught a new way of thinking and acting, a new kata in Mike Rother’s terms. We know this takes personal commitment and deep practice over and over.

If you have enough strong lean coaches, a big if for most organizations, you could tackle each of the functional units individually, and also at the same time perhaps take on some cross-functional projects. But the cross-functional work is likely to be most effective once there is a degree of maturity in each of the functions.

“Sustaining lean” is a misnomer. It is not like a piece of equipment you install and then use PM to maintain. it is more like “sustaining” weight loss which means living a new life style appropriate to the new weight level–daily exercise and eating right. The people in the organization must learn a new way of thinking and acting, what also means unlearning, which is more difficult then learning for the first time.

What you are asking is certainly doable, and there are many pathways to get there from an end to end value stream approach to get to better OTD (1″ deep a mile wide) to delving into a specific functional group first to develop a model (1″ wide, a mile deep). With more strong coaching resources you can go deeper and broader faster.

But in any case this takes time and dedication and a long-term view.

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