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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Whoever Experiments Fastest, Wins

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Question: What are the most difficult industries and activities to introduce lean to and why?

Here’s a thought: The more similar a company’s business is to Toyota’s, the more it can try to copy and implement Toyota’s visible tools rather than practicing and developing the PDCA skill that is essential to Lean.

PDCA = the scientific method. Scientists know we often advance to new solutions and levels of performance through disproof. Why? Because a refuted hypothesis (when things don’t go as expected) reveals a knowledge threshold and helps take us beyond our current ability and thinking. Even the best-developed plans should build in learning and adaptation, and I think good leaders do it instinctively.

But our current management paradigm tends to seek certainty. How rarely do we hear, “I don’t know,” “Let’s observe what happens,” “Not sure yet,” “We’re testing that.” The Lean community and university Industrial Engineering departments talk about PDCA as a concept, but how much PDCA is actually happening? We could add a 9th waste: The waste of not testing assumptions. It’s our responsibility to teach students and managers how to actualize PDCA.

Any organization or industry that isn’t prepared to experiment and adapt on the way to new target conditions could find its competitive position eroding. So what industries and activities resist PDCA the most? I don’t know. Let’s observe what happens.

But you knew I was going to say that.  😉

Mike

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