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
Archives by Tag 'dan'
Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: What will happen to lean after you leave

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, August 1, 2014
The definitive test of lean is what you leave behind after you leave the team, department or organisation you are responsible for. Can they continue their problem solving and continuous improvement journeys or will they revert to past behaviours? Business results from lean here and now are great but sustained results on into the future depend on the capabilities you developed while you were in charge. You can tell very quickly as you talk to the team. Would they want to go back to the way things were before lean? Can they describe the “ah ha” moments when they really ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Finding Time For Improvements

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Making time for improvement is a choice. The single most important thing a CEO can do is set an example by making time in their diaries. The successful lean pioneers I have known all spend a day a week out in the organisation and talking to customers. This sounds hard to do but if you think about it the place where the most expensive discretionary time exists in any organisation is near the top. How the top behaves shapes the priorities for everyone else. Just ask yourself how many Executive level projects your organisation is pursuing, typically between 50 and ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Starting The Leadership Journey

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, February 24, 2014
Let me add to all the excellent advice to start by building the problem solving capabilities to improve the processes or value streams that create value for customers. The one lesson I have learnt time and time again is that lean cannot be "done for you", you have to do it and lead it yourself. As the natural inclination of management is to reach for an expert to solve a problem this lesson is not easy to learn. So you will be well advised to think as much about the path to develop the capabilities of top management as you ...

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Jeff Liker

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

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, September 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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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean across a decentralized network

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, July 4, 2013
Lean is not just about developing problem solving capabilities but about using them to improve the value creating processes that in turn deliver steadily improving results for the business. So as always the place to start is defining the exact nature of the business problems you are trying to solve. This will in turn show you where your processes are broken and where to focus your lean efforts to greatest effect. Doing lean without a clear purpose is unlikely to be sustained for long. There is no doubt that improving performance across a geographically disbursed network is difficult. Let me share ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Hoshin and purpose

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, May 16, 2013
It is good to see the growing interest in Hoshin planning. It reflects the struggles many organisations are having in turning lean improvements into business results. But it is a mistake to reach for a new tool without first being clear about the business problems you are trying to solve in doing so. I first learnt about Hoshin from the outstanding management team at the Nissan plant in Sunderland in the UK that opened in 1986. Over the next few years I watched them struggle to make Hoshin the core of the way they managed and then to teach Hoshin to ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean in Product Development

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, March 11, 2013
There is more to more to this question than meets the eye. I remember mapping the product development process for ready meals at Tesco fifteen years ago. We uncovered an enormous variation in lead times from concept to launch and eventually tracked the source of this variation to a bottleneck in the legal department several floors above the action. Nothing could progress until legal approved the proposed text on the packaging of the product, and they did this at unpredictable intervals to fit in with their other work. Balancing the workload and creating a regular cadence allowed us to compress ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Academies and KPOs

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Every organisation needs a home for developing its lean capabilities. They may differ depending on circumstances and will certainly change focus over time. The first and most ambitious exercise I was involved in from 1993 was to create the first corporate university in the UK to develop lean capabilities across the Unipart Group of Companies in auto parts manufacturing and after-market distribution. “Unipart U” as it became known was truly innovative and drew directly on the Operations Management Group at Toyota, who at that point was providing Unipart with technical help on lean. It remains one of the most successful ...

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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 engaged in problem solving. At this point it should be possible to rebuild the IT architecture of the organisation to mirror and support their lean processes. Then it is time ...

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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 in fact the primary purpose of any organisation, and profits are the result of doing so efficiently and effectively. These value streams usually flow horizontally across many departments and even across ...

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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 contrast, a lean leader builds the capacity of the people and the system, so that the results — and the ability to continue to deliver results —  transcends the leader’s ...

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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 happening much faster than expected and is unlikely to be reversed. In the UK big cuts in public sector budgets are having a dramatic and lasting effect on public procurement ...

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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, good people running a good process generate good results. This also provides the right basis for redesigning these products, value streams and business models as circumstances change. A lean assessment starts ...

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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 organisation fed up trying to manage broken processes. In this case support from top management is essential to use the freed up capacity or cash to reduce costs and grow ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean and Operational Excellence

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
It is a mistake to think of lean as just one of the many tools in the Operational Excellence portfolio. Operational Excellence is really a catch all label for many different "best practices". Lean on the other hand is a very specific set of interlocking practices, tools and behaviours derived from a very clear reference model. Lean grew out of years of practice and experimentation at Toyota and at companies in other sectors that have followed their example. It did not come from applying theoretical insights to business practice. Correctly understood, lean is a much more fundamental and comprehensive approach to ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Who struggles more with lean

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, June 25, 2011
I remember two distinguished CEOs from the auto industry telling me that it was impossible to get their sales and marketing people to go lean. Although my colleague Dave Brunt and I have never given up this quest they have a point. In our experience the hardest people to convince are those whose natural temperament is doing deals, the traders and negotiators who are always looking forward to the next deal and have no patience for the discipline involved in improving processes. Although Dave has had some extraordinary success with what are now some of the best Toyota dealers, it ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: How to Judge the Success of Lean?

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, June 17, 2011
Lean is a journey and to my mind the best way of judging success is by how much people have learnt so far and how ready they are to take the next leg of the journey. I often meet people who tell me that “Lean has changed their lives”. While this certainly makes writing books worthwhile it also presents an opportunity to ask some probing questions. Can they show me how lean has changed the way they work with their colleagues and the things they are working on? Are they for instance really working together in teams, defining their own standard ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean problem solving and teamwork

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, May 27, 2011
There is more to problem solving and teamwork in a lean organisation. This was brought home last week during another Gemba walk through a plant making fast moving consumer goods. As we snaked our way past a maze of hoppers, ovens, pipes and packaging lines it became clear than nothing was visible at all, to me or to the managers accompanying me. I kept asking what was today's plan, were they behind or ahead, what were the biggest problems and what actions were they taking to address them. The managers I was with could only answer these questions by going ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Saves Capital

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 2, 2011
Lean is undoubtedly about doing more with less, including less capital. Saving capital may be one of the early consequences of lean but a full realisation of the potential for designing capital saving equipment and systems only comes much later along the lean journey. Quite rightly early lean efforts are initially focused on improving customer satisfaction by performing every action right first time on time. This in turn allows many activities to be eliminated and the remaining steps to be linked together, saving cash tied up in unnecessary inventories and reducing costs by using less people. Very often this also ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Toyota’s Challenge for the Lean Movement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, March 7, 2011
The main lesson from the Toyota affair is that the lean movement will now have to live on it's wits and not on the coat tails of Toyota. It will grow and prosper if it deconstructs the many lessons learnt from Toyota and turns them into actionable practices, frames of reference, learning pathways etc to enable other organisations to build their own functional equivalents and achieve demonstrably superior performance. Simply copying Toyota's practices misses the point and does not work without understanding and internalising the thinking behind them and adapting them to the circumstances facing organisations in different industries and ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: The Financial Consequences of Lean

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Why is it so hard to see the financial consequences of lean? Failure to answer this dilemma has derailed many lean initiatives. This is not such a problem if top management really understands the significance of focusing on getting everything to flow right-first-time-on-time to customers. Like top management at Toyota and Tesco, they know that good processes lead to good results. Alternatively if you have an experienced Sensei who knows where the gold lies buried and who has worked on similar situations before, there is a good chance that they can help you to deliver the kind of results you ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Training and Waste

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, January 10, 2011
The power of the very tight lean definition of waste as only those actions that directly create value for customers is to throw a spotlight on all those actions that clearly do not create any value at all and should be stopped, and to raise questions about those actions that might be necessary to enable the value creating work to be done, such as planning and procurement. This is also true over time looking into the future. We can also distinguish between work that creates value today and work that will create value in the future, in for instance designing future ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Beyond Waste

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

Dan Jones: Optimising end-to-end flows rather than keeping separately managed assets busy means overturning many of the assumptions on which today’s MRP and ERP systems are built

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010
There are many ways to answer this question. IT systems reflect three things. First the way management thinks about setting priorities, controlling operations, problem solving etc. Second the way at least the bigger systems are sold – like construction, you bid low and promise novel features to get the contract and then make money on the changes, so they are over budget and late. Third, the belief that the only way to control complex systems is to model and simulate them in order to control every action and make sure every asset is fully utilized from the centre. Lean thinkers approach ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Creating a Kaizen Culture

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, July 26, 2010
In my experience a Kaizen culture is set by example, is enabled using a common method and language and is nurtured by recognising achievements, telling stories and building upon the resulting learning. In 1993 I was fortunate to be involved in creating what is still one of the best examples of a Kaizen culture at the Unipart Group of companies in the UK, who make and distribute automotive components. From the beginning the initiative has been led by the Chief Executive, who teaches regularly in the company university, reviews progress on the shop floor of their many operations and attends ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Convincing Executives to go Lean

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, June 11, 2010
The best way to answer this question is to summarise two contrasting real stories – one that got it and one that still does not – at different ends of the same sector. The successful case began with a question from a senior Director – “How could these lean Toyota ideas help my business?”  “Let’s take a walk and see” was my answer. As we walked it because clear there was waste everywhere. This very quickly led to a meeting with the CEO who was intrigued and gave us the go ahead to begin some experiments to demonstrate the potential scale ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Insights before Lean Innovation

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I have always thought that innovation rather than simply quality, delivery and cost was the real purpose and ultimate result of lean thinking; innovation in terms of the products and services we design, in how we relate to customers and in how we find new ways of working together to create value. The experience with lean is that it leads to new capabilities which in turn open up new business models that turn the tables on the competition and reshape whole industries. In other words lean insights can lead to lean innovations. There is no short cut. Think of it this ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean, Quality and Cost Cutting

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, April 22, 2010
I have met many of these folks too who talk about lean but whose heads are stuck in the old cost cutting mind set. Organisations that employ them, whether as internal or external consultants, deserve what they get – traditional cost cutting! A great shame and a missed opportunity. On the other hand I have also met good lean folk who know all the tools but who do not have an A3 plan to guide their actions. And I often encounter quality folks who imply that improving quality is somehow more virtuous than the grubby task of eliminating waste, which ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Essential Lean and Six Sigma

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 10, 2010
The fundamental power of the ideas behind Lean and Six Sigma are too important to be lost sight of as the improvement movements that champion them compete for attention. These ideas came together in a unique synthesis at Toyota in the 1960s as it was developing its business system. In my view they need to come together again as the rest of the world strives to realize their potential. What the Quality movement, of which Six Sigma is the latest incarnation, brought us is the idea that this is how we can use the scientific method to solve social as well ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: The Laws of Lean Organisations

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, March 15, 2010
It is not too far-fetched to think of lean as the science of getting useful work out of an organisation. But in this case the organisation does not exist in isolation – it has to serve its customers, work with its partners (employees, suppliers, distributors, shareholders etc) and find its place in the physical, economic and social environment in which it operates. This changes over time and so the laws of lean organisations will also change as societies face new challenges in the future. This is how I would summarise the “laws of lean”. The first lean law states that the ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Service Delivery

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, February 27, 2010
Taiichi Ohno is reported to have said that the shop floor is a reflection of management. In my experience this is so true. Unless management can articulate a convincing case to change it is easy to get stuck in fire-fighting mode. Good people trapped in a broken process without a clear purpose will never improve. Well intentioned efforts to change the culture or even to redesign processes will run into the sand if the purpose or the performance gaps that need to be closed and the financial consequences of doing so are not clear. This means management seeing lean not just ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Learning beyond Toyota

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, February 8, 2010
Toyota’s impressive growth to become the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world undoubtedly gave the lean movement its unique strength. Organisations who try to follow Toyota’s example only have themselves to blame if they cannot make similar progress. They cannot claim that lean does not work, only that they have not yet fully understood what it entails. But Toyota’s example also means that the lean movement, unlike almost every other movement, was driven by practice and not theory. Indeed it was well over twenty years after the Toyota Production System was codified that Jim Womack and I described the theory and ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Goals and means to achieve superior performance

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, January 11, 2010
Goals and means have to go together. Either one without the other does not lead to lasting improvements. To do this managers need to work together to dig down to the underlying root causes of the often vaguely defined performance gaps facing the organisation. Understanding these root causes helps everyone to focus on closing the vital few gaps that will make the biggest difference to the organisation, its customers and its employees. At which point someone can be given the responsibility for gaining agreement across the organisation using the evidence based, scientific method to implement and test the right countermeasures ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean has to be “win-win-win”

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 6, 2010
There is no doubt that employees very much prefer to work in a lean organisation. When you hear them say “we would never want to go back to the old ways” you know that at least this part of the organisation is serious about lean. If lean is misused as a fig leaf for crude cost cutting you know it will go backwards in a hurry – it is difficult to misuse lean for long. But that does not mean that employee involvement is all there is to lean – or that it is all plain sailing – far from it. ...

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