Question of the moment
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 May 9, 2015
Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Develop deep capability, don’t assign people to jobs in an office

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
It is always difficult to add value when I wait until someone else has answered on the lean edge, particularly someone with the thoughtfulness and eloquence of Steve Spear.  I could simply say:  "I agree," but I will add a few thoughts.  Steve talks about the two alternative purposes which I will summarize as quick and dirty one-off projects compared to creating a high performance ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: The key differentiator is what leadership thinks it need accomplish: redesign of processes others use to conduct their business or acquisition of capability that they can cultivate, propagate, and engage energetically

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
What role a kaizen promotion office plays depends on what problem you are trying to solve.  Is it to make a single change in process design and performance or it is to change the ramp-slope at which an organization discovers its way to greatness? For the former, organizations might want to stabilize otherwise chaotic processes--both those that are physically transformative and also those that are ...

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Joel Stanwood

Joel Stanwood: What practical advice would you offer to companies as they establish their Kaizen Promotion Offices?

By Joel Stanwood, - Last updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
Building the KPO What practical advice would you offer to companies as they establish their Kaizen Promotion Offices?  At the beginning their Lean journey each company faces questions such as: (a)    What is the role of the KPO to serve the organization? (b)   How do we best leverage the KPO for leadership development? (c)    What is optimal size of the KPO organization? (d)   What is right mix of internal / external hires? (e)   Who ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Toyota and the Ringi-sho Process

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 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 ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Ringi is a tool to learn to define target conditions and practice meaningful hansei

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, December 29, 2012
There is always a temptation to see TPS tools as operational tools rather than learning tools. Ringi as an operational tool is nothing more than a corporate way to deploy hoshin kanri. So what? On the other hand, ringi as a learning tool is essential to both defining target conditions and practicing hansei – big topics! I had not thought much about ringi for a while. I first came across the ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Ringi-sho is the formal approval process linked to hoshin kanri

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, December 29, 2012
I will have to admit when I saw the word Ringi in this question, it brought back many memories of my time at Toyota (TMMK).   It's not a word I've used or heard much since my time there, even though the thinking behind it could be more common if expressed differently. As others have mentioned above Ringi or (Ringi-sho) is not necessarily a Toyota creation, it is a Japanese term which when ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Really? More Stabbing Around for Solutions?

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Thursday, December 27, 2012
Question: What is Ringi? Should that practice be adopted by Lean thinkers? The process of PDCA Thinking and Acting suggests we should experiment our way to a target condition. That is, when a step doesn’t work as intended (which happens all the time) you learn something valuable from that prediction error and you set up the next experiment based on what you just learned. In this way you create a chain ...

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Arthur Byrne

Art Byrne: If a company is approaching lean as their strategy and implementing it aggressively [no dabbling allowed] and it thinks it can benefit from using Ringi

By Arthur Byrne, - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
Like most of the rest of you I never heard of Ringi before so I figured that I never used it. Then I looked up a definition, “a process where all those involved in implementing a decision have a say in making that decision in the first place”. Thinking of it that way, the way we always organized our kaizen teams more or less incorporated this approach. We always had ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Ringi is a formal process of writing up a proposal and getting it approved

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
This question is a little different then some in that it asks about the connection between a group of Japanese words.  Not every organization is enthusiastic about learning new Japanese words as the lean lexicon is complex enough.  Actually these are really very old words, and both ringi-sho and nemawashi are not specific to Toyota, but to Japanese management more generally.  Anyone who was studying Japanese management back in the ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Ringi as used by Toyota, ensures that resources will be allocated according to the Hoshin Kanri for that period

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
Great topic.   As to how widespread Ringi is in Toyota, I think most people in Toyota would be well familiar with this practice as it is used in all areas, from production to sales to IT.   In Toyota they refer to it as Ringi Sho, which is roughly translated to Approval Document.  But as some other Japanese or Toyota terminologies, this one should not be ...

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Lean Global Network: Can you clarify the role of “ringi” in lean?

By , - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
"What is Ringi? The Lean Edge has discussed Nemawashi, but could you clarify the practice of Ringi? How is this linked to A3? How widespread is its use within Toyota? Should that practice be adopted by lean thinkers?"
Dave Brunt

Dave Brunt: Purpose, Process, People in Sales

By Dave Brunt, - Last updated: Thursday, December 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 ...

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Jeff Liker

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

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, December 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 ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Revenue growth is a key part of lean thinking

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, December 9, 2012
This is an excellent question. I work with sales teams in at least 80% of the improvement work I lead, so it can and must be done. I agree with several of the Lean Edge team that part of the reason why Lean has been slow to capture the imagination of sales teams lies with Lean’s early, erroneous spin as solely a “manufacturing thing ” versus a broad and deep ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Understand the value stream from order to customer

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Monday, December 3, 2012
This is a good question and one that doesn't facilitate itself for such a linear answer. I think all the responses so far have talked about many different ideas based on all our experiences out there with various industry and gives our readers some good perspectives to build on. I suppose being part of Toyota in the beginning (1988) when we were setting up ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Lean in Sales starts with Genchi Genbutsu and PDCA

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Monday, December 3, 2012
Interesting notes from different perspectives. The little I know about sales and its TPS practice comes from joint efforts when they were teamed up with us, production engineering, in my old days at Toyota. 1)      They did genchi genbutsu to its full extent.  A few examples:  Once, we went w/ sales people to the port of Santos in Brazil to follow up cars arriving from TMC ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Lean is sometimes a bad name…

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Thursday, November 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 ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Learning to make hit products

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
This is a very interesting question: how can lean help boost sales? There are two ways of looking at this: one, applying lean thinking to the sales function, or two, increasing sales with lean. As I don’t much about selling, I’ll tackle the latter – how can lean boost sales without touching the sales function? If we’re not focusing on selling, the product had better sell itself! There are four very ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: We must think of the whole enterprise as a continually evolving system

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, November 26, 2012
If you look at the comments of several of my colleagues about bringing lean to sales they point out how important this is--to really connect the value streams of design-build-sell--and Wiremold was brought up as a company that in its heyday had made a lot of progress at the lean enterprise level.  Personally if companies have an immature lean system in manufacturing I suggest they ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: If we focus on eliminating the wastes associated with the selling process first, we can capture the imagination that lean and sales are great partners!

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Monday, November 26, 2012
Lean failing to capture the imagination of the sales team…what a question!  Our sales team loved the fast lead times. Our sales team loved the improved quality. Our sales team loved rapid pace of new product offerings. We loved to leverage the web for selling.  But just as every other department outside of manufacturing, the improvement cycle was not grasped without some tangible structured introduction ...

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Arthur Byrne

Art Byrne: If the CEO sees lean as a business strategy, he/she will involve sales from day one

By Arthur Byrne, - Last updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012
the answer to your question has to go deeper than just trying to explain “why lean has failed to capture the imagination of the sales team”. The issue isn’t so much sales but rather a lack of understanding of lean. If you think of lean as “some manufacturing thing”, and probably 95% of all companies and CEO’s view it this way then this should not be surprising. Heck, lean is ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: The lean system comprises three ‘loops’ in fact: Design, Make, Sell.

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Hi all, Good question. Building on Orry's points, the Toyota Business System is about growth -- and not simply efficiency. And you can't grow unless Sales is engaged. The system comprises three 'loops' in fact: Design, Make, Sell. As it happens, one of my favorite Toyota senseis, Shin-san, was a sales & marketing executive! Most Lean transformations focus on the Make loop -- and sub-optimize therefore. A chaotic, lumpy sales profiles will force even the most splendid ...

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Orry Fiume

Orry Fiume: Get field sales people to participate in shop floor kaizens!

By Orry Fiume, - Last updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012
I agree with the observation that the Lean movement has failed to recognize the importance of the sales team in capitalizing on Lean as a growth engine.  And I believe that the answer goes back to when we in the western world first started to become aware of what the "Japan, Inc" (AKAToyota) was doing.  It first manifested itself as "Just In Time" and we ...

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Joel Stanwood

Joel Stanwood: Why has the Lean movement largely failed to capture the imagination of the sales team?

By Joel Stanwood, - Last updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Most management teams who testify to having implemented Lean will describe financial impact in terms of shop floor efficiency improvement – direct labor productivity, overtime reduction, inventory velocity, floor space utilization, etc. Paradoxically, in terms of company economics, the most alluring promise of Lean is to boost sales, delivering ever higher variable contribution margins while delighting customers and winning in the marketplace. ...

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Arthur Byrne

Art Byrne: First link the logical value streams through product families, then get change over times under 10 mins

By Arthur Byrne, - Last updated: Saturday, October 13, 2012
I assume that the parts made in the press shop are being consumed in the assembly shop. We had the same situation when I first joined Wiremold. We knew we wanted to get to a flow operation starting with the presses and going all the way to the finished box. We had a painting operation in between so it was even  a little more complicated. Where you want to go ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Depends on Your Goals

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, October 8, 2012
Question:  Where do you think we should start the Lean process in the Press Shop? Seems to me the answer to this question depends on what customer-related challenge your facility is trying to meet. In Lean terms, what does your 1-3 year, dock-to-dock future-state value stream map specify as the desired condition, on the way to the (dock-to-dock) vision of 1x1 Flow at Lowest Cost? This future-state map is a place ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: Establish a daily pattern production schedule to sequence your presses

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Saturday, October 6, 2012
There is a huge difference between the typical “assembly” line production and the manufacturing environment. We are all guilty, to some extent or another, of trying to replicate the ‘sequential production’ paradigm into a world that experiences ‘non-sequential’ work loadings – a world of high product variability, short runs and shared resources. Herewith some ideas for you to consider. 1.       Close the feedback loop by linking your output requirements (i.e. your customer) ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Flow if you can, pull if you can’t

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Monday, October 1, 2012
I was recently visiting a large German factory that manufactures industrial equipment – huge mix, low volumes. When I first saw the site, sometime last year, it looked like a plane crash, with cells and half-completed product all over the place – not surprising for a high variety long process product largely managed by the SAP. The plant’s management team had tried to streamline their flow by Value Stream Mapping ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Lean Versus Historical TPS

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Monday, September 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 ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Don’t confuse JIT shipping with a JIT system

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, September 24, 2012
We did work for a JIT seat assembly plant that shipped in sequence to automotive.  They were proud of the plant for being "lean."  After all it shipped JIT.  Walking through the plant it was obvious it was far from lean.   Yes they had an assembly line for the seats and yes they shipped in the exact sequence of the auto assembly lines.  But in reality they were sequencing out ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Start with Production Control and Empower People through Standards

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, September 22, 2012
Hi Andrew, I will answer to my personal experience in regard to this question.  I think its a good one, it can bring out many dynamics that fall under that umbrella of thinking "flow vs batch" so I will try to cover several of them within my answer.   When I was first exposed to the Toyota Production System (TPS) "thinking" in 1988 at Toyota Motor Manuf. KY (TMMK) I made ...

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Andrew Turner: Where do we start in a Press shop?

By , - Last updated: Saturday, September 22, 2012
“Our company is split in 2 sections, the one a JIT assembly plant, the other a mass production Press Shop. Implementation of Lean in the JIT plant has been relatively simple (not that Lean is ever really simple), however, we are struggling with the implementation in our Press Shop. I know the importance of items like SMED and Heijunka in driving this journey, yet we are battling to get the ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: Is nemawashi checking the relevance of a solution and enriching it with key field actors, or simply promoting / enforcing it ? It is both – and which one is applied is dependent on your intent.

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Monday, August 27, 2012
Nemawashi is a double edged sword.  Both edges work equally well. Which edge to use is entirely dependent on the intent of the person initiating the engagement. I first came across the practice of nemawashi during new model launches. Especially during the (then) traditional sit down meetings to review project progress. Before we started to discuss and agree on the way forward, there was a tendency to every now and then ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Nemawashi literally means “going around the roots” — so as to prepare a tree for transplanting.

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Friday, August 17, 2012
Here are my thoughts. Nemawashi literally means "going around the roots" -- so as to prepare a tree for transplanting. The word evokes images of quiet, patient work: · Finding a the right spot for the tree, both physically and aesthetically, · Ensuring good sun, soil & drainage, · Digging new hole of the right depth & diameter, and then watering and fertilizing · Carefully transplanting the tree, filling in the hole, etc Thereby, we develop a ...

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Daniel Markovitz

Daniel Markovitz: Nemawashi is more than just lobbying

By Daniel Markovitz, - Last updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012
Lobbying (and yes, I’m thinking cynically of what happens on K Street in Washington), is an attempt by a small group to influence policy for the benefit of that group. The welfare of the larger institution is secondary to the welfare of the sub-group. Moreover, lobbying isn’t a learning exercise: opposing or alternative views aren’t incorporated into the lobbyist’s position. Nemawashi is also designed to influence policy, of course. But there ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: In my time at Toyota, nemawashi was as common as the word kaizen

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Nema- what !? This is a frequent response I get when I use this term with clients or individuals who are on their lean journey.  I would like to take a minute to  just explain the word and its meaning because I feel many misuse this term/concept and sometimes getting everyone to see through the same lens is very helpful.  The Japanese often used metaphors like, "prepping the soil" or "digging around the roots" for successful ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Nemawashi in Toyota

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Tuesday, August 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 ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Nemawashi is about genuinely being interested in the ideas of others

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Nemawashi was one of the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese management written about a great deal in the early 1980s when the Japanese seemed like an unstoppable business force that could do no wrong.  Over time as the "Japanese miracle" led to the lost decade, and it was no longer fashionable to imitate Japanese management fads it seemed to have become lost from discussions about business best practices.  At Toyota it ...

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Catherine Chabiron: Can we reduce nemawashi to lobbying ?

By , - Last updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Can we reduce nemawashi to lobbying ? Is nemawashi checking the relevance of a solution and enriching it with key field actors, or simply promoting / enforcing it ?
Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Keeping Your Lean Transformation Focused

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Question:  How do we ensure constant focus and momentum in our Lean transformation? This may be one of the most discussed questions in the Lean community these days. Over the last 15 years there have been a lot of improvements, but lots of stagnation and slipping back too. In your question you mention you’ve been focusing on training people in visualizing, analyzing and solving problems. Interestingly, depending on what you mean that ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Houshin Kanri & PDCA

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Monday, July 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 ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Houshin Kanri & PDCA

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Monday, July 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 ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Five years into lean

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Five years of lean progress should be rewarded with a vision of how the organisation is going to use the new capabilities of their staff and their value streams to exploit new opportunities that competitors will struggle to follow. By then I would expect top management to be setting the direction for lean, middle management to be focused on streamlining their value streams and the front line to be deeply ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: The company learns as long as the CEO learns at the gemba by supporting kaizen

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Sunday, July 22, 2012
The CEO of a construction company once told me that the day he was bored with the gemba, he’d better sell the firm. This, from a CEO who has more than quadrupled the value of his company in the past five years. This CEO has figured out that the company continues to learn as long as he continues to learn, and the gemba is where true fact-based learning happens. Senior management ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Sustaining focus & momentum requires effective connected checking — our organization’s nervous system

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Monday, July 16, 2012
Good question & good reflections. I would add the following. Sustaining focus & momentum requires effective connected checking -- our organization's nervous system. We call it Level 1, 2, 3 checking, Level 1 being the front line. To Sammy's point, it's hard to beat daily asaichi at the front line, supported by leader STW checking what's important. But front line asaichi needs to be connected to Level 2 & Level 3. (Some problems are beyond the ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Sustaining focus & momentum requires effective connected checking — our organization’s nervous system

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Monday, July 16, 2012
Good question & good reflections. I would add the following. Sustaining focus & momentum requires effective connected checking -- our organization's nervous system. We call it Level 1, 2, 3 checking, Level 1 being the front line. To Sammy's point, it's hard to beat daily asaichi at the front line, supported by leader STW checking what's important. But front line asaichi needs to be connected to Level 2 & Level 3. (Some problems are beyond the ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Self development leads to developing others

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, July 15, 2012
Based on your description I cannot tell what you have done in the 5 years, and know nothing about your processes.  As a general rule focusing on training people in visualizing, analyzing and solving problems is a great thing, particularly training managers.  In our new book on Developing Lean Leadership the Toyota Way we describe how to develop leaders and we are arguing that they need to be trained in ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: You get what you inspect, not what you expect

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012
Ensuring a constant focus on lean efforts seems to be a current interest in many organizations. I believe that constant focus has always been a reward for constant inspection.   As manager Doug Jennings from NUMMI used to say, you get what you inspect, not what you expect. It would be very difficult if not impossible to keep the focus and momentum along the lean journey, if you don’t have a structure of ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Involvement and engagement of people at their process(es) where the work is being done must be a priority

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012
It's always music to my ears when I hear a company is willing to invest time in people development from the executives to the floor level of the organization.  I believe that the training of the concepts or values are just the beginning of the lean journey, the more difficult task is the sustainment, improvement and growth of leaders and their practices to ensure the company is doing business in a way that ...

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Klaus Petersen: How do we ensure a constant focus and momentum in our Lean transformation after these years and what are the pitfalls we must avoid ?

By , - Last updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012
We have been on the Lean journey for 5 years where we have been focusing on training people in visualizing, analyzing and solving problems. We have spend a lot of efforts in training managers to support the journey which they have done. How do we ensure a constant focus and momentum in our Lean transformation after these years and  what are the pitfalls we must avoid ?
Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Managing Horizontally as well as Vertically

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Silos are a symptom of a deeper problem in organisations. Getting rid of silos is not the answer to this problem. Traditional management systems organise expert knowledge into vertical functions and departments and use these to allocate resources across the organisation. So does Toyota. However following Toyota’s example, lean organisations also manage the flows of the work (or value streams) that create the value customers are paying for. This is ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Toyota’s Functional Organization

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Wednesday, June 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 ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Time for Mindset Change?

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, June 25, 2012
Question: "What are the five major things we need to do to help us successfully transform a silo based organisation into one focused on business processes, and what are the biggest risks we need to look out for?" To change the silo focus you'll have to change people's mindset, which developed out of them having been led and managed a certain way. Habitual behaviors can be changed and there are a ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: Walk through the process

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Sunday, June 24, 2012
The first activity I would suggest is just walking a quote through until the order is completed, invoiced and recorded. Talk to the people about what their steps are.  Ask what they spend their time doing.  Ask how long it takes to do the main purpose (the value add) of the task, and then how long to do the task overall.   Ask which parts of the task are done in the IT system and what ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Don’t reorganize! Learn to pull instead

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Sunday, June 24, 2012
Full disclosure : I wrote a book on re-engineering almost 20 years ago and I wish there was a recall procedure for published books :). As the book was put on the shelves I had reached the conclusion from evidence that a re-engineering project would stop the company working for about two years as every one tried to figure out their role and play musical chairs and the new “re-engineered” organization ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Without work standards there can be no kaizens

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, June 23, 2012
This is a very interesting and complex question but one Im drawn to answer based on my experiences at Toyota on the production floor, a current instructor at Toyota, and as a consultant over the past 14 years.  I've had the opportunity to be very close to this situation with a couple of my clients who could be categorized as silo based organizations. It's difficult at times to have a linear ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Changing the structure doesn’t change the work – don’t reorganize, teach teamwork

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, June 23, 2012
I often think that questions like this suggest a misunderstanding of the problem.  Simply stating the problem is we have silos and we want to turn the organization sideways to focus on business processes is not a  good problem statement.   Presumably there is a process that cuts across silos and the silos need to work together to solve specific problems to achieve specific objectives. The reason they currently do not ...

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Klaus Petersen: From silo based-organization to business processes?

By , - Last updated: Saturday, June 23, 2012
"What are the five major things we need to do to help us successfully transform a silo based organisation into one focused on business processes, and what are the biggest risks we need to look out for?"
Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Work standards are both individual and collective

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, June 23, 2012
I was in a plant this week where assembly operators filmed each other and compared how they work on the same station stopwatch in hand, and get to an agreement on the standard way to build a specific part. On most aspects they agreed there was a “best way” in the stopwatch sense, on some they agreed to disagree as each individually preferred to do this gesture this way or ...

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Standardization, or high agreement

By , - Last updated: Sunday, June 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 ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Standardized Confusion

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Sunday, June 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 ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: We all individually had standards we followed as well as the team collectively and upward

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I think from my 10 years at Toyota (TMMK) standards were the basis for everything we did, including 5S.   It really was the key to our success and the infrastructure for the culture.  Having the unique opportunity to be a team member, team leader and group leader within the company it was important to understand that we all individually had standards we followed as well as the team collectively and ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: It depends on how many people you really need to make the effort on this specific improvement to take place with its adequate adjustment of standards.

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Sunday, June 3, 2012
Maybe the core question ends up being:  whose role is it to improve? The question seems too simple now: When we say we are improving specifically the "standards", and if by that we mean improving standardized work and its three documents, then very often that is done by a team as small as 2 people, the team member and his supervisor (or many times a process engineer), who can document, do time taking, record steps on ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: Standard work is the best way that is currently know to do the work

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Thursday, May 31, 2012
Standard work is the best way that is currently know to do the work.  As decided by the people who do the work.  To get the best possible standards, the people doing the work might have involved customers and suppliers of their work to better understand what is needed.   The standard will evolve over time as the work content changes, the understanding of waste improves, and the supplier and customer needs change.   The real question I ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Standards might stem from an individual’s suggestion or it could be the result of a group discussion

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
In the Toyota Way the purpose of standardized work, or any standards for that matter, is to provide a baseline for kaizen.  If 5 people do the job differently than any individual with an idea will only apply the idea to her own work.  The individual will learn something, but the group will not.  In order for a group to learn they have to agree on a standard and then ...

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Cécile Roche: Are work standards individual or collective?

By , - Last updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
"Standards of work: an individual or a collective discipline? I understand that standards are the basis of respect in Lean, established, followed and improved at a team level as the better way to identify successes and failures (and then act .). How to balance the individual effort of everyone and the collective contribution of the team?"
Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Performance Organizations

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Wednesday, April 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 ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: PDCA is the missing element

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I'm not sure we are not doing anything about it.  But perhaps what we are doing is not working.  Perhaps the PDCA element is missing. As people say, the problems of today are all solutions from yesterday. One example is the home ownership catastrophe.  Smart people created several avenues to allow millions of people to buy their own home.   Home ownership was solved for people who otherwise would never afford to buy those much-more-than-I-can-afford-mansions.  Those smart ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Where is the blueprint for a manager who wants to create a learning organization?

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Monday, April 9, 2012
Learning is hard. Particularly in adults, learning requires a determination to learn. This means controlling one’s intuitive “first response.” Learning requires what is called “frame control”, which is a mindfulness about our mental models and knowing how to actively play fit-to-fact with new info or situations. Grown up minds are simply not designed for learning as we know what we know, and believe what we believe. In other words, first “what ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: We look at single variable explanations in isolation to get us the quick fix

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, April 9, 2012
The best way I can explain this is with an analogy to physical health.  We know what it takes to be healthy--exercise and eating right.  Yet America, as the wealthiest in the world, is one of the unhealthiest.  Obesity runs rampant and the large majority of Americans are overweight and out of shape.  We could ask the same question.  Why are we letting our future deteriorate without doing anything about ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Our business & professional schools teach us to think in a way inimical to learning

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Monday, April 9, 2012
Why Are Learning Organizations So Scarce? A billion dollar question... There are many root causes, which my Lean Edge colleagues will no doubt explore at length. Here's one that I find compelling: Our business & professional schools teach us to think in a way inimical to learning. Here are some of the mental models I picked up at engineering and business schools: 1) We are very smart and successful 2) We can manage from a distance, by the numbers. Corollary: What ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Our business & professional schools teach us to think in a way inimical to learning

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Monday, April 9, 2012
Why Are Learning Organizations So Scarce? A billion dollar question... There are many root causes, which my Lean Edge colleagues will no doubt explore at length. Here's one that I find compelling: Our business & professional schools teach us to think in a way inimical to learning. Here are some of the mental models I picked up at engineering and business schools: 1) We are very smart and successful 2) We can manage from a distance, by the numbers. Corollary: What ...

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Craig Kennedy

Craig Kennedy: Why is there such resistance to creating learning organizations?

By Craig Kennedy, - Last updated: Monday, April 9, 2012
The question then, unresolved for me as a leader in an industrial American company is "given all this evidence for learners, improvement, learning organizations and strong cultures formed through these patterns, why is there such resistance and such a dearth of it in America? In essence, why are we letting our future deteriorate without doing anything about it?"
Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: A good leader will show the way, a lean leader will have the follower find it

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Thursday, March 29, 2012
I think the ability to influence other people and the skills needed to do so would be somewhat similar to both types of leaders, provided they are both good leaders. Perhaps a distinguishing trait between the two leaders can be perceived by observing how they interact with their followers.    While the lean leader will frequently challenge their followers beliefs and paradigms, the good traditional one will put a lot of weight in the praise and motivation. Maybe ...

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Dan Markovitz: A lean leader achieves objectives by developing workers’ capabilities to deliver those results

By , - Last updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Leaders are lauded for delivering results. Wall Street in particular prizes predictability above all. But reaching goals or benchmarks doesn’t speak to the sustainability of the accomplishment. “Chainsaw” Al Dunlop fired people at Sunbeam (and other companies he “led”) left and right on his way towards reaching profit targets. Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron cooked the books to hit its numbers. In neither case were the results sustainable. By ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: To fully and deeply commit to the PDCA cycle, all day, every day

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Sunday, March 25, 2012
If you had to force a one liner statement from me in answer to the above question I guess it would have to be “To fully and deeply commit to the PDCA cycle, all day, every day”. But what does this mean practically in terms of behaviour and results? Some very clear guidelines have been offered in the previous sections. Also, many references to Toyota have been made and, having spent ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Lean leaders make people before they make parts

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Management is essentially about getting people to do what you want them to do, like having an extra pair of arms to implement your ideas, whereas leadership is about getting people to fight your battles for you. These are two very different approaches to any organizational role. In that sense, whether lean or not, leadership is about how you interpret your job, and then how successful you are at doing ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Toyota Teaches its Leaders

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Question:  What distinguishes a Lean leader from a very good traditional leader, in behaviour and results? I think there's little difference between a good Lean leader and a good traditional leader. Both want to transcend themselves. What we may actually be asking here is why does Toyota seem to have a disproportionate number of them? One factor is the way Toyota leaders acquire their leadership ability. Traditionally we try to select ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Sorry, no buzz word

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Sorry but in all honesty I am not a fan of providing “sound bite” sized answers to complex questions. I fear these short so-called answers or buzz words often do far more harm than good and don’t advance the state of lean thinking very much. I believe that hard questions deserve some hard thinking and reflection. If Lean Leadership could be reduced to a catchy phrase or a basic formula ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: A lean leader celebrates disclosing problems and other people’s abilities to solve them

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012
A lean leader celebrates disclosing problems. A lean leader celebrates other people's abilities to solve problems. A lean leader follows standard work themselves and expect it from everyone in the team.   A lean leader creates time for improvement and starts every meeting with "what have you improved since we last met?" A traditional leader celebrates good news.  A traditional leader promotes fire fighters. A traditional leader believes people have to be managed.  A traditional leader evaluates how ...

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Jim Huntzinger

Jim Huntzinger: Lean leaders spend the time developing the people with different knowledge, wisdom and experience to change and evolve the system and culture of the organization

By Jim Huntzinger, - Last updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012
To carry forward the points Jeff makes about differentiating between a lean leader and a traditional leader, we can also look at this from a systems view.  As Dr. Liker aptly describes a traditional leader with all the adjectives that we are familiar with; and often, these types of leaders do make changes with very good results. The longer term issue is these types of leaders rarely make the deep system ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012
A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba. When we think of a traditional leader with adjectives like charismatic, decisive, visionary, inspiring, tough, bold, and transformational.  This is a western interpretation of the leader as the individual who changes the game, turns the company around, makes the tough decisions, and gets results, results, results.  When we see results, and especially when we see ...

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Jan van Ginkel: What distinguishes a Lean leader from a very good, Traditional Leader, in behaviour and results, in one, clear statement?

By , - Last updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012
What distinguishes a Lean leader from a very good, Traditional Leader, in behaviour and results, in one, clear statement?
Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Satisfy the Customer in the Long Run for Sales and Profits

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012
I think we are falling into the trap of discussing “production tactics” as a root cause solution without really understanding the problem. Apologies in advance but I would have to back track first and clarify the situation in greater detail before I could answer the question. I will provide some context for what I mean and some thoughts on the short term and long term in terms of actions ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Never Waste a Good Crisis

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, February 24, 2012
Falling sales always provokes deeper thinking about what it talks to survive. The starting point is to define the business problem behind these falling sales. Structural shifts often coincide with cyclical downturns of the economy. For instance in the USA health insurance companies are now switching their patients to local district hospitals charging much lower rates. Big expensive teaching hospitals are struggling to adjust to this structural change, which is ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Takt time is a thinking device to combine flexibility and productivity

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012
As time goes by fact becomes legend and legend becomes myth. Takt time is one of the core concepts of lean, which origins are now misted in myth – uncertain and unknowable, but thought-provoking anyhow. Legend has it that Ohno hit upon Takt time thinking when trying to improve productivity. Toyota was assembling trucks for the US army, and Ohno realized they’d spent three weeks in the month getting all ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: What’s Your Strive Vector?

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Question:  Is there a lean way of dealing with falling sales? Conventional lean responses to falling sales -- like adjusting production to customer takt and giving rebates to help levelize demand -- reflect a view of Lean and Continuous Improvement that will be too narrow for sustained competitiveness. We tend to apply Lean inside our comfort zone, honing our existing ways of doing something. Unfortunately, if we don't also establish challenging target ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: You must balance the principle of “build to takt” with the principle of “heijunka,” and the principle of “respect for people.”

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I appreciate this question from Jean-Baptiste Bouthillon who himself has become a serious student of lean and had to make decisions like this for his construction company.  I will start with his assumption that "production must follow the takt of customer demand."  It is always dangerous to take an ideal principle and turn it into a prescriptive statement.  "The ideal is working to achieve production to takt" is different then ...

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Jean-Baptiste Bouthillon

Jean-Baptiste Bouthillon: how to follow Takt with falling sales?

By Jean-Baptiste Bouthillon, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
We have all learned that overproduction is muda, and that production must follow the takt of customer demand. Is there a lean way of dealing with falling sales ? Should we just adjust production to customer takt time or stabilize sales by giving rebates ? Is it important to level sales and give some stability to production or should we just adjust the production takt time ?
Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Evaluating Executive Performance

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Tuesday, January 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 ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Assess along purpose (results), process (means), people (learning) framework of a lean management system

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, January 22, 2012
Lean adds new perspectives to the traditional ways of assessing executive performance, namely Results and People skills, and adds a third process or value stream dimension. These mirror the purpose (results), process (means), people (learning) framework of a lean management system. The lean logic behind this is that you need knowledgeable people running tightly integrated end-to-end value streams and projects to deliver results that will be sustained. In other words, ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Evaluate efforts to improve performance indicators and develop self-competencies

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, December 17, 2011
What an interesting question! And difficult to answer, as every organization has its own traditions and practices on the topic. If we’re talking evaluation and not incentive, the one thing I’ve learned the hard way in lean transformations is that you can’t simply focus on results because you’ll tend to give the hardest projects to some of your best guys. If a hospital evaluates its obstetricians on complications at childbirth, ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: What are they trying to achieve, what is the process to get there, what concrete actions are they taking

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, December 17, 2011
The obvious answer is that it depends.  Any of us who have had Japanese sensei had heard that a lot.  So what does it depend on.  First, it depends one the strategic business purpose of the organization--external.  Second, it depends on the organization's goals for people and culture development-internal.  Third, it depends on the current maturity of the organization to meet the business objectives.  In other words I would want ...

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Eric Buehrens: What is the right lean way to evaluate executive performance?

By , - Last updated: Friday, December 16, 2011
What is the right lean way to evaluate executive performance?
Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: How can lean survive

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The best chance for lean to survive a change in top management is if it is seen to be delivering significant results, not just point improvements in key processes but bottom-line results for the organisation as a whole, which would be reversed if support for lean disappeared. Top management may be instrumental in leading the lean actions that deliver these results, but they are often led by managers lower down the ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Lean is a CEO practice to improve performance

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The first thing his sensei told my father when they started working together was that the great weakness of TPS was that it rested entirely on the plant managers. Years later, this statement turns out to be confirmed, time and time again. If there’s one thing we’ve learned is that lean is a practice – and well, a practice. I’ve been discussing this issue with other CEOs and one different way ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: How do we continue to learn after current leaders move on?

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Good insights from Steve, Mike et al -- thanks. Here are my thoughts, for posting. How Does Lean Survive a Change in Top Management? Succession planning is indeed the key, but perhaps not in the conventional sense. As Mike suggest Lean thinking entails meta-cognition. Meta-cognition entails 'knowing about knowing' and answering questions like: How do I learn? What do I know? What do I know well? What do I not know very well? Great leaders tend to know themselves thereby, and ...

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Preparing for the inevitable change in leadership

By , - Last updated: Sunday, November 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 ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Developing the next generation of leaders

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As Steve pointed out succession planning is the key, except that succession planning means different things in different organizational contexts.  Many large companies pride themselves on succession planning and have elaborate IT systems and human resources has developed formal career paths.  In a lean organization, if Toyota is any guide, these types of systems are only superficial for screening.  One of the problems with trying to transform a traditional organization ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: How do you select the next CEO for continuity in excellence?

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The inability to maintain continuity with a firm's efforts around continuous improvement, operational excellence, and broad based product and process innovation has to be tied, in part at least, to poor succession planning and process. Be it the CEO or board, there must be some criteria of critical skills and capabilities that leadership candidates must posses to be deemed likely at success.  One couldn't imagine a contender who either lacked some ...

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