Lean Frontiers: Are they differences in getting middle management on board from getting executive management support?
Are there differences in getting middle management from executive management on board for 1) developing the lean enterprise and 2) direct engagement on their part? What are the differences, if any?
Posted on 9 mai 2015
Archive for 'Responses' Category
Jeff Liker

What about Kaizen events

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: mercredi, juin 11, 2014
As with all lean tools and techniques their effectiveness depends on how they are used. I helped to introduce Five-day Kaizen events into the UK and later to Europe and they proved to be very powerful in demonstrating the potential for improving work and eliminating waste. In particular they helped lean pioneers learn what really goes on at their front lines so they could become more effective lean leaders. I also remember falling asleep in a dreadful report-out from several Kaizen events in one hospital, the last of which was about the process for changing a lightbulb! I kid you not, ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: This is honestly more about leadership than lean

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mercredi, avril 2, 2014
Be forewarned - this response may come off as a somewhat brutal but I was frankly appalled by parts of the above question. Maybe I am just getting old and cranky? If so you have my apologies in advance. In order to explain my extremely visceral reaction to the submitted question I will address the statements made one by one for clarity. For starters you state that “As CEO of my company I have a grasp of Lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I am CEO, I find it hard to ask my people to make ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Lean Conformance vs. TPS Performance

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, janvier 7, 2014
The main question asked here is "have workplaces moved to multi-purpose cells or do we still see isolated operators on the shop floor (現場 / Genba)"? The statement implies that was what “Toyota” was teaching us 20 years ago.  Well that last part I sort of doubt it. In reality that is partly what the observer was learning or partly what the instructor was relating at the time. Unfortunately that is not the right frame for implementing TPS with success. I will probably not answer the question in the way the person posing this might have expected so apologies up ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Toyota Insourcing For Competitive Advantage

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: vendredi, décembre 6, 2013
I honestly don’t know if there is a specific “lean way” for organizing value through out the supply chain. Lean is a pretty subjective term these days and I find as much difference of opinion on the topic as I do agreement. I expect a lot of different responses on this topic depending upon differing backgrounds. Speed, quality, value, feel good, profits, etc. take your pick and state your beliefs and reasons why. On the flip side I do know some things about how specific Toyota is when it comes to making these types of decisions. Also there is history ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Dynamics of Problem Solving

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mercredi, septembre 25, 2013
This particular questions asks why it is so hard to cooperate across functions to solve problems by using the scientific method. Not the exact wording but close enough for short discussion. Problem solving via any method (scientific method or otherwise) is not all that simple when you stop and problem solve the process of problem solving. At least I have never found that to be the case. Solving actual production or engineering problems is far simpler and more straightforward. An actual answer on this topic could take dozens of pages and examples but I will at least outline some short ...

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Steve Bell

Steve Bell: Leading your team in the practice of collaboration and experimentation

By Steve Bell, - Last updated: samedi, septembre 7, 2013
Not only can you contribute, but you and your teams should play a significant role. Over the past several years I’ve seen an interesting trend emerge. It wasn’t all that long ago when the enterprise avoided involving IT in a Lean transformation. Often, Lean practitioners viewed IT as an impediment to continuous improvement. And sometimes they were right – historically IT has often been unnecessarily complex, costly, risky, unreliable, and resistant to change. Fast forward a few years. CIO’s, seeing the gains realized by their operations colleagues, began applying the principles of Lean (through such disciplines as Agile, Scrum, and ITIL) ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: How can a CIO help a Lean Transformation?

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: vendredi, septembre 6, 2013
It is difficult to give specific answers to this question without knowing more about the type of organisation we are talking about, without being able to directly observe how the value creating work is carried out today and how management resolves problems and makes major decisions. But then it is not in the spirit of lean to give answers, which might or might not be taken up by the recipient. Instead it is much more helpful to ask relevant questions that will hopefully prompt the right thinking that in turn leads to the right actions. The first question is what ...

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Dave Brunt

Dave Brunt: Lean in organisations with multiple sites

By Dave Brunt, - Last updated: mercredi, juillet 31, 2013
"How can lean be sustained across a decentralized group geographically spread out? 
A consumer-facing made-to-order manufacturing company has a significant service presence (sales associates, designers, customer service reps, logistics associates, installers) distributed across a wide geography in a somewhat decentralized organization structure. Each of the groups listed above is run by a different functional head. Sustaining Lean gains in a single plant is challenging enough -- doing so across several dozen groups spread across North America is tougher still. What advice do you have for the managers of this company?" This is another great question. Here are some of my reflections ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Reflections on the Lean Startup

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, juin 24, 2013
I think there is a lot to like about the book The Lean Start Up and certainly something to learn from it as well. The book has done extraordinarily well in terms of sales and recognition. There are some shortcomings of the book when it comes to actual Lean practices but I think it is more interesting to look at why the book is successful. For those not familiar the book is organized in the following manner: Part 1: Vision 1) Start 2) Define 3) Learn 4) Experiment Part 2: Steer 5) Leap 6) Test 7) Measure 8) Pivot Part 3: Accelerate 9) Batch 10) Grow 11) Adapt 12) Innovate 13) Epilogue: Waste Not There is a lot ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: The Lean Startup

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: mardi, juin 11, 2013
There is a lot we can learn from the Lean Startup movement. I am grateful that this question provoked me to read the book again more carefully, and I urge others to do so too. First it tells a good story well – better than most lean books. Second it is written by an entrepreneur and business person, rather than an expert or consultant, who has struggled to use lean ideas to solve a very different set of business problems in his own businesses before sharing his results and reflections with others. The book stretches our experience and should help ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Houshin Advice

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, mai 21, 2013
For a company which is pulling in different directions I think that spending some time establishing and improving their Houshin process will yield significant benefits. The trick like in most things to make sure you get it right or the “tool” will not necessarily make you perform any better. It will require rigor and correct execution of the Plan Do Check Act cycle in order to function as desired. Since there are already some insightful responses posted on this topic I will merely stick to the advice and lessons learned part of the question posed this month by Joel Stanwood. One ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Degrees of Pressure

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, avril 8, 2013
I am not sure that this particular question is really about "Lean". I think this is mainly a question about performance in general and why certain groups excel in the long run while others slowly enter the gravitational field of decay. In the following paragraphs I’ll offer up some general perspective on what I consider the reality facing most organizations, describe various degrees of pressure, and highlight what successful organizations tend to do. For starters let’s reflect on various situations in life in general and step back from the whole “Lean” term. As I often jokingly point out “Lean” is a ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Standard Lean Logic Flaw

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, mars 18, 2013
This question unfortunately reminds me of the old adage in problem solving that vague fuzzy problem statements lead to poor causal analysis and then in turn poor countermeasure selection space. Any results will usually be limited in nature if they are evident at all. In this post I will point out some problems induced by the above definition of standards, the flaws in the logic at least with respect to actual TPS practices, and what I instead suggest. I will try and utilize some generic examples for contemplation and clarification. The question above in this month’s LE question implies that the ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Define the driving need

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mercredi, février 20, 2013
Toyota or Lean Product Development is a really large discussion topic. In all honesty I cannot begin to do justice to the entire content or even really suggest where to begin without greater knowledge of your situation. I’d want to assemble a better understanding of the situation before spouting off advice. For starters I will offer up some of my standard words of caution and then try to offer some historical perspective on the matter. Then I will offer up what I can in terms of limited practical advice. In general however attempting to apply basic lean tools off the shop ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Productivity and Improvement

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, janvier 29, 2013
In theory this issue of measuring productivity is pretty simple but in reality it is usually complex for a variety of reasons…In general however I don’t like the question of “is there a specific lean way to measure productivity”.  I will elaborate on the topic with some background information and explain my concern and attempt to make some suggestions. First off here are a couple of quotes from the eminent British Nobel Prize winner (1906) J.J. Thompson regarding physics. The quotes also apply to lean as far as I am concerned. “To measure is to know. If you cannot measure it you ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Line versus Staff Leadership

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: dimanche, janvier 27, 2013
The question of how to staff a KPO (Kaizen Promotion Office) and with what type of leader is an interesting one and it deserves some thought. I don’t think the question is a trivial one or a “one size fits all” answer. The response depends upon the nature of the company, the situation it faces, resource development priorities, and the overall leadership style of the executive leading the organization. For starters let’s question whether you even need a Kaizen Promotion Office to begin with.  That may sound like an odd question but keep in mind that Toyota did not have any ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Toyota and the Ringi-sho Process

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mercredi, janvier 2, 2013
In all honestly I was not very excited to answer this question. I think a huge problem with the Lean movement in general is falling prey to Japanese buzzwords (Ringi, Nemawashi, Houshin Kanri, A3, Hansei, Yokoten, Yamazumi, Kamishiai, Muda, Kanban, Heijunka, etc.), and hyping a concept or practice. Buzzwords fail to create a practical improvement methodology in terms that all organizations can embrace. That shortcoming in my opinion turns off large segments of the population and ultimately fails to get down to first principles for improvement as I have stressed repeatedly in the past. So in that spirit I would ...

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Dave Brunt

Dave Brunt: Purpose, Process, People in Sales

By Dave Brunt, - Last updated: jeudi, décembre 20, 2012
My initial reaction, when first reading this question is to quote the famous phrase from the Training Within Industry materials – “If the learner hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.” However this is a good question and one that deserves some discussion. As someone who has spent 14 years helping create examples of lean in car dealerships I have some hypotheses and some experience of the challenges of implementing lean in sales. Obviously understanding the root cause of failure is situational but here are my general observations. 1. Purpose is not always clearly understood. Different customers are at different stages in their ...

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Jeff Liker

Daniel T Jones: Why is lean in sales so hard?

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: jeudi, décembre 20, 2012
I have struggled with this question ever since we compared the striking differences between car distribution in Japan, Europe and North America in the “Dealing with Customers” chapter of The Machine that Changed the World. I spent the next decade researching every aspect of car distribution in the International Car Distribution Programme (www.icdp.net) and helping the grocery retailer Tesco to pioneer lean in grocery distribution and sales. My colleague Dave Brunt spent time as the lean champion at the Porsche sales company in the UK and has more recently had considerable success in coaching lean dealers across the world, based ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Lean is sometimes a bad name…

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: jeudi, novembre 29, 2012
I have a couple of different thoughts on the matter of this month's question and why lean fails to inspire so many people including sales teams. Some points are simple matters of history. Others pertain to how the Toyota Production System has been perceived and described in the United States and other countries around the world. I will elaborate on my thoughts below. For starters I agree with the assertion that “lean” has mostly failed to catch the imagination of sales teams and other parts of most companies. Sure exceptions exist but I am talking about the majority of cases. Normally ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Lean Versus Historical TPS

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, septembre 24, 2012
I think this is a pretty interesting question and reflects the current status of Lean in many companies I visit. I often make the distinction that modern day Lean and the actual historical development of the Toyota Production System (TPS) are two pretty different animals. I will try and explain my opinion, provide some examples, and answer the question in the following paragraphs. For starters if you study most of the books, training, and examples about Lean you quickly see that it is mostly assembly type of examples. That is not surprising as the assembly part of a Toyota facility is ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Nemawashi in Toyota

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, août 14, 2012
Nemawashi (根回し) is one of those Japanese terms utilized in the Lean community that I am not very fond of to be honest. I run into far too many organizations throwing around this term or other Japanese words like "Hansei" or "Yokoten" or "Kamishibai" instead of using plain English (or whatever your native tongue happens to be) for communication. I realize there are times that a foreign word has no exact translation and is necessary for exact measures of communication. However equally often I run into instances where a cliquish type of language is used to create a sense of ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Houshin Kanri & PDCA

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, juillet 30, 2012
This question centers upon how do you maintain focus and momentum on a Lean journey. In a nutshell that is why Toyota developed and utilized its form of Houshin Kanri and PDCA management. Toyota did not invent these tools but they apply them as well as any company that I have come across. Honestly it is easy for any company in the world including Toyota to get off track at times and falter. It takes strong leadership to stay on course or to intentionally deviate when necessary. The first part of the submitted question uses the word "focus". The term ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Toyota’s Functional Organization

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mercredi, juin 27, 2012
I don’t have a very snappy answer with five insightful key points for the question posited this month. The question posed is a fairly common one and yet I fear that is potentially problematic in one regard. The question of “how do I…” (fill in the blank with most any topic) is actually referring to an action item that has been decided upon as a solution to a problem. For individuals with extensive background inside of Toyota we have a hard time engaging in this manner. Up front we like to know more about the background and current situation and ...

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Standardization, or high agreement

By , - Last updated: dimanche, juin 17, 2012
The question asked is "Are work standards individual or collective?" Standardization is a very difficult topic for most people in lean. The difficulty starts with a past practice and perception that standards are something we give people to force them to do work in a way that might not even be the most productive. Because of this, the perception of standardization is often far from its intention. Our preference is to use the words high agreement of both what and how. The reason for these words is it conveys what we believe to be more the intent of standardization. It ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Standardized Confusion

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: dimanche, juin 10, 2012
If I had five dollars for every question I ever had to answer about Standardized Work or Standards inside of Toyota I’d be a very wealthy and retired individual! Seemingly this topic and associated themes pertaining to standards should be easy but that is not the case in reality. There is more than meets the eye with this topic and that is what I suspect is lurking behind the scenes with this question. I will explain some of the types and forms of standards inside of manufacturing at Toyota involving how they work and how they are changed. As is normally ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Performance Organizations

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mercredi, avril 11, 2012
This month's questions asks why is there such a resistance to creating learning organizations and why are leaders letting the future deteriorate without doing anything about it. I am not sure that I can answer the question with any relevant facts to be honest. In order to answer this question properly I think the proper thing to do in TPS spirit is to "get the facts" and proceed from that basis. In this case for example we'd have to survey an adequate number of executives and measure their responses. Some might have no resistance to creating a "learning organization" while ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Evaluating Executive Performance

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, janvier 24, 2012
 Let’s consider answering this question in reverse for some contrast in terms of discussion. In other words what is the wrong way to evaluate executive performance? For starters as has been mentioned I don’t think you can just focus on results especially financial ones although of course they are very important. Many factors outside of direct executive control affect financial performance. Often a rising tide lifts all boats and simply being in the right place at the right time can make a company successful for a few years. Decisions made years ago by predecessors or colleagues in other departments might ...

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Preparing for the inevitable change in leadership

By , - Last updated: dimanche, novembre 6, 2011
Until someone finds the Fountain of Youth, leadership changes in organizations are inevitable. Large corporations and small family-owned businesses all have to deal with it. But sometimes they appear to occur at the wrong time. Just as your lean journey appears to have some momentum, all of a sudden the leadership changes. The leadership change might be at a plant level, an executive level, or the CEO themselves. In any of these cases, leadership changes can cause shifts to our momentum. But we're caught by surprised. And anytime that we're caught unprepared for something that is inevitable, we have only ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Toyota’s True North Concept

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, novembre 1, 2011
There are several points raised in this month's question about the concept of True North in Lean Thinking. First what is its role, second how can we define the concept, third in what way does it contribute to lean results, and fourth can lean be done without True North? I'll give my perspective on these topics one by one in the paragraphs below. True North is one of the common buzzwords of the past decade used to help explain parts of the Toyota Production System or Toyota Way. For starters I am not a big fan of buzz words like True ...

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Jamie Flinchbaugh

Jamie Flinchbaugh: “Lean won’t work in MY field”

By Jamie Flinchbaugh, - Last updated: lundi, juin 27, 2011
What is the hardest field to apply lean? It doesn't seem to matter what field you're in, they all think theirs is the hardest. And they can back it up with evidence. One of the most frequent questions I get is "who else in my industry is doing lean?", because no one wants to be first, and no one wants to be last. There is a wide range of answers to this question in the series so far, and all of them valid. I'm not sure which is the hardest, but every field of work and every functional application brings its ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Lean Government

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: vendredi, juin 17, 2011
In response to this month's question the phrase “Lean Government” is something I think we will start to hear more of over the next few years and many no doubt will chuckle at the term as oxymoronic in nature. With deficits are large as they are in the United States and other countries budgetary cutbacks are inevitable. When forced into doing the same amount of work (or more) with fewer resources then systematic improvement becomes paramount in terms of importance. Otherwise quality, delivery, and other dimensions tend to suffer. In other words cost cutting is accomplished but not cost reduction ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Lean Success

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, mai 31, 2011
We have discussed the topic of why so few companies really show substantial progress when it comes to lean implementation quite a few times on this web site. I won't rehash all those topics in detail since they are available for those interested in a variety of different posts by different authors. For the last decade or more I have been lamenting about this topic in speeches, articles, interviews, and client discussions, etc. At least I am not the only one unhappy with the state of lean these days. One of the best ways to improve is to study failures ...

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Jamie Flinchbaugh

Jamie Flinchbaugh: How would you measure lean success?

By Jamie Flinchbaugh, - Last updated: dimanche, mai 29, 2011
The question asked was "what counts as 'lean success'?" Albert Einstein once said: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. I see most people making mistakes when trying to evaluate success. They try to measure lean success as if it is a program. What's the easiest way to measure a program? Activity! Yet we should not confuse activity with productivity. Lean programs are measured by means such as the number of people trained or the number of improvement events held, yet these activities do not a lean journey make. They are only inputs. And even ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Tools, Rules, Principles, and Lean Wallpaper

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, avril 19, 2011
I have had a long and somewhat tortured fascination with regards to this topic and other similar questions. In terms of background when I returned to the United States from Japan in the mid 1990's after working for Toyota Motor Corporation it was difficult for me at least to recognize many of the efforts that were supposedly modeled after the Toyota Production System (TPS).  Some of it was frankly bewildering. The Lean movement has gone through many phases and efforts and I am certain that this will continue. I have commented in speeches, articles, and other areas over the past ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Toyota and Capital Investment

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: dimanche, mars 20, 2011
In the previous post I responded to a question about capital investment and the Ohira plant of Central Motors (a Toyota affiliated company producing the Yaris) that is gaining some attention in the press. There are few specifics known about the facility.  Only snippets of news are leaking out in the press or from site visits. I made a few observations about the reports on the facility but instead of pontificating about a facility I have never even seen in person I will opt to speak more in general terms about Toyota and its capital investment decisions. The following is ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Ohira Plant and Investment

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: samedi, mars 19, 2011
There are several parts to this question and I will probably break up my thoughts into two different posts on the topic of capital investment. The question asked pertains to a new plant in Ohira Japan located north of Sendai that is associated with Toyota Motor Corporation. This plant in actuality is owned by a Toyota affiliated company known as Central Jidosha in Japanese or Central Motors in English. Toyota has a financial interest in the company but technically it is not owned or operated by Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). Still as the opening ceremony for the plant was attended ...

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Jamie Flinchbaugh

Capital is a resource of last resort

By Jamie Flinchbaugh, - Last updated: mardi, mars 15, 2011
The question asked was “what is the lean approach to capital?” In some ways, this is the wrong question. The reason is that the lean organization and the lean thinker is not looking to put capital to work. Capital is just a solution to a problem. Capital is not just another budget line item that must be consumed and deployed. It starts with the ideal state. When a team has a vision of the ideal state for a process, it seeks any solution that gets it closer to that solution. When a team lacks such a vision, it reaches and grasps. ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Always Room for Improvement

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, février 21, 2011
The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued their release of the study performed in conjunction with NASA engineers with regards to the safety of Toyota vehicles with regards to the potential causes of sudden unintended acceleration. The finding was a positive one for Toyota. The results of a ten-month study by 30 NASA engineers of possible electronic causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles was released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). "NASA found no evidence that a malfunction in electronics caused large unintended accelerations," said Michael Kirsch, principal engineer and team ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Financial Benefits

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mardi, janvier 25, 2011
Historically Toyota Motor Corporation has been a very profitable company over the past 60 years in what is generally a very cyclical business. Before its recent problems Toyota was racking up annual profits for several years in the $15 Billion + range and had not reported an annual loss since the early 1950's. Various problems and the global economic slowdown brought those numbers to a grinding halt in 2010 but the figures appear to be picking up again it seems. Regardless the question remains why does (or did) Toyota produce such great financial results and in contrast why do other companies ...

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Jamie Flinchbaugh

Jamie Flinchbaugh: Understanding the impact of developing your people

By Jamie Flinchbaugh, - Last updated: mercredi, janvier 5, 2011
The latest Lean Edge question is How do Lean organizations develop their employees if Lean considers expenditure of resources other than for creation of value to be wasteful? First, a true lean organization isn’t obsessed with waste. If anything, they are obsessed with value.  Waste is anything more than the absolutely minimum required to add value to a product or service; waste is not just anything that doesn’t create value. I can’t imagine much value can be delivered without the right skills and capabilities in the organization. Therefore, I don’t think there is any conflict between developing employees and waste elimination. Second, ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: A Continuing Definition Problem

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, janvier 3, 2011
This somewhat loaded question follows the previous one involving a commonly used but narrow and inaccurate depiction of lean manufacturing as simply “waste reduction”.  A similar problem occurs if you simply claim that Lean considers expenditure of resources other than for creation of value to be wasteful. As I attempted to explain previously somewhat tongue in cheek most depictions fall short of describing the Toyota Production System due to the broad area that the system covers. I'll answer the question in two parts articulating why I think there is an embedded misconception in the question and then reflect upon what ...

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Is lean about waste?

By , - Last updated: jeudi, décembre 16, 2010
First, I disagree that lean is a "production practice." But that's not really the question, so I'll move on. I agree with Art's description - many people see different things in it. It wouldn't be fair to say that lean is NOT about waste elimination, but it's equally unfair to say it's all about that. As Anais Nin said, "we don't see things as they are. We see them as we are." But let's get back to waste and it's role. Waste is the flip-side of the coin of value. Assuming that lean is just about eliminating waste means that value is ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Beyond Waste

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: jeudi, décembre 9, 2010
The premise behind this question and the Wikipedia definition reveals three common misconceptions about lean. First lean is not limited to production activities. Although the original insight to streamline the flow of work as well as improve the way each step is performed was developed on the shop floor, it has long since been shown to have widespread application to other processes. Indeed over time the principles of lean process design we articulated in Lean Thinking have transformed all kinds of activities from supply chains to service delivery and administration to flows of patients through hospitals. They are even helping ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: The Lean Elephant

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: lundi, novembre 29, 2010
I think it is best to be honest and admit that most characterizations of lean (or the Toyota Production System) are all lacking in general. In one sense the question posed is simple enough but the answer is not really all that easy. Depending upon what angle or approach you take you can come up with some different points of view on the topic. I'll summarize a couple and then close with some advice. If you read any of the old Toyota Production System (TPS) handbooks or books and speeches by Taichi Ohno you'll quickly find that there historically is no ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Respect for People

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: vendredi, novembre 12, 2010
About a decade ago Toyota simplified its philosophy down to the two pillars mentioned - continuous improvement and respect for people. It is true that you won't find much written about "respect for people" but that is not to say that Toyota does not emphasize the concept in some obvious ways. The roots for the concept inside Toyota at least date back to Sakichi Toyoda's founding precepts in the 1930's or earlier depending upon the version. I think it is worth pointing out that the TWI training that Toyota implemented in the early 1950's from the United States after World War ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Improvement and Objectives

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: mercredi, octobre 27, 2010
I think several of the posts already address the first part of the question regarding how objectives are set but not as much has been said about how it is different from traditional management by objective. I'll try to focus more on the latter part of the question from a Toyota perspective and then end with some words of caution and play somewhat of a devil's advocate role regarding the use of ideal states as objectives for the sake of lively discussion. In Toyota of course a big emphasis is placed upon the topic of Kaizen or continuous improvement. The kanji ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Sample Toyota Kanban Flow to Supplier

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: jeudi, septembre 23, 2010
It is indeed a shame that there is such a gulf between the Lean world and information technology (IT) systems. On one side (the lean group) a vocal segment has implied that the only answer is to unplug computers and do things entirely manually. Manual kanban cards, manual movement of material and information, and other extreme measures. On the other side (big ERP) the players have often shot themselves in the foot by viewing IT departments as the end customer and delivering "solutions" that did not solve fundamental problems and cost a fortune and were often inflexible to boot. (Yes I ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Breaking the Dysfunctional Cycle

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: jeudi, février 25, 2010
There are multiple parts to Professor Rob Austin's latest question so I am going to break it up and attempt to deal with the parts that struck me as most interesting in the paragraphs below. For starters Professor Austin would like to generally know what can Lean do about this type of situation which unfortunately  is typical whether it be in manufacturing or service type of operations. I hate to sound like a broken record but I always remind companies that we have to learn to first specify either what are the exact problems or ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: If the goal is excellence then people will be stretched and it will not always be pleasant.

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: mercredi, décembre 23, 2009
I just happened to be working on yet another book in the Toyota Way series when I got this question. The book, called The Toyota Way to Excellence, is about the journey to lean by organizations outside Toyota. Believe it or not I was in the midst of writing a section called "managing change is political." Politics is the use or abuse of power. Whether it is viewed as use or abuse depends on the perspective and interests of who is doing the viewing. To lean change agents who are trying to help the organization ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Lean Ain’t Just Cost Cutting

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: vendredi, décembre 18, 2009
Question:  How do you avoid lean becoming just cost cutting? How do you get people to embrace the philosophy? When we started investigating Toyota 20 years ago we looked at Toyota’s outcomes -- reduced waste -- and labeled that “lean production“. That's what we've been trying to implement, and what then leads to lean as ruthless cost cutting. We missed Toyota’s less visible thinking, intentions and behavior routines that produce the outcome of reduced waste. Is Toyota simply cost cutting? Try this on for size: Toyota corporate guidance in the current harsh economic climate is:  “No permanent layoffs ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Lean is about better managing costs, not cutting costs

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: lundi, décembre 7, 2009
The fundamental insight is that in any cost structure there is a kernel of costs which are common to all competitors in terms of materials, components, labor, equipment, overhead etc. and then around these costs, an additional layer of costs which are due to the firm's operational method - waste, in the lean sense (costs you incur unnecessarily because of things we don't know how to do, poor planning decisions and wasteful activities this generates). "Lean" is lean in the sense that it tries to progressively take the unnecessary costs out of the system. Lean usually approaches cost management with ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: lean is not “mean”

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: dimanche, décembre 6, 2009
In some ways the word "lean" was an unfortunate choice and in other ways a brilliant choice.  The intention was that a lean person is healthy in a holistic way--muscles in the right place, all organs functioning properly, able to hold up to intense exercise and even hostile environmental conditions.  It is a great metaphor for what the flexible, adaptable, solid to the core company should be like.  Company executives that treat lean as mean and use the tools to shed people, the source of the company's health, are either delusional or do not really care about how the company performs in ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: a methodical approach to change management

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: dimanche, décembre 6, 2009
I can empathize with the fears and connotations associated with the term “Lean” in the question posed by Prof. Austin. The term Lean was coined in the United States by a team associated with MIT researching the Toyota Production System. Internally at Toyota we never used the term “Lean” and I have always been somewhat uncomfortable with it for several of the reasons stated above. In order to address some of the fears and items mentioned by Prof. Austin. I think there are several actions that need to take place when getting started ...

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