While I agree whole heartedly with all of the responses so far, I’m going to offer an alternative viewpoint from pragmatic perspective. Many of the organizations I’ve worked with that have made significant progress on the Lean journey, didn’t begin with the ideal: “what problem do you want/need to solve?” In several cases, they had no idea what Lean was; they simply knew that they wanted to improve their performance. So I’ve often started with a “demonstration activity” to get their feet wet, expose them to Lean thinking, and show them the world they could head into. In most of these cases, I was at least able to get them to clearly identify a problem that was best suited for A3 problem solving or value stream mapping as an diagnostic and design tool. But that problem wasn’t necessarily THE problem.
I have found that taking this “back door” approach can be highly successful in getting the attention of the ENTIRE leadership team vs. one or two who’ve experienced Lean and know its power. Once the entire leadership team is hungry, we can do things “the right way,” stating with hoshin planning. With the attention that my new book (with Mike Osterling), Value Stream Mapping is garnering, we’re getting many requests from organizations who haven’t experienced much Lean yet and want to try it out. I see no reason to force them into hoshin planning if they’re not ready for it. Rather, we begin with VSM to expose them and get their attention. The future state projections for a team I worked with last week from quote to cash include freeing $25M in working capital, reducing lead time from 17 months to 7.5 months, and freeing enough labor capacity that it’s the equivalent of having another 43 FTEs in the organization. The hope that the highly achievable future state design gave the leadership team is creating much belief in operating with new minds and eyes. The value stream improvements will solve a multitude of problems, but I don’t believe it’s THE problem. I’m OK with that. They’ll get there.
Regarding books, consultants, and senseis, organizations make far greater progress when they’re working with a seasoned transformation coach. Books are important, but DIY Lean won’t likely get you where you want to go as quickly as you likely need to get there. It’s like learning to play an instrument or sport. There are only a few top-performing athletes and musicians who are truly self-taught. Find someone you trust and who has ample experience and proven results. And check references. Just because someone is well known doesn’t mean he/she is a good fit for your organization.