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 'learning'
Steven Spear

Steven Spear: Accelerated learning of what to do and how to do it

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Certain organizations “punch above their weight,” generating far more value (that accrues to everybody, not just customers or just shareholders, etc.), faster, and more easily. This despite them having access to the same technical, financial, and human resources as all their counterparts——and thereby enjoying the same advantages and suffering the same constraints.(1) The difference? They know much better what to do and how to do it, so operate on a frontier of speed, timeliness, efficiency, effectiveness, safety, security, and so forth others barely perceive. As with all knowledge, the source of ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Is it lean learning we’re talking about? Or lean squeezing?

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, February 8, 2014
It depends. What kind of lean are we talking about? First, there’s lean lite – you want to improve the operational performance of this or that process. In this case, find a consultant you can work with, do a model case, usually through mapping the existing process with a team and drawing out a future state process and then implementing it. Then, being convinced of the effectiveness of this approach (unless the consultant is completely useless, it always works), you can convince your management that if you replicate the savings you’ve had throughout the organizations, you’ll get real, visible, bottom-line improvements. ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: In high velocity learning, standardization is about capturing the best known approach in design, and seeing flaws in production

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Monday, April 15, 2013
To your quote: In France, the battle against lean is raging (as in: CEOs use lean for brutal productivity gains and Unions are dead set against it), Ironically, both adversaries in this contest share a common assumption: that standardization, visual management, and the like are for the purpose of control--management wants to exercise it, labor wants to avoid it. Also shared is the assumption that work is low variance but numbingly routine or non routine but high variance in quality and productivity. That, of course, misses the reality by which Toyota another superlative organizations succeed. All ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Pick you sensei with care, the sensei manages the learning curve

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013
If you want live music for a party – do you decide how large the orchestra should be, or do you worry about picking the right conductor? There are two ways to look at this question: the taylorist-lean way and the Toyota-lean way. In the taylorist-lean way, the problem is quite mechanical. You’ve got a number of sites and processes, you want to apply the “waste-reduction” machine to each of these processes, and you need kaizen officers to do so. The question is then a matter of size and payback – how many kaizen officers do you need to hit every ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: You are always leading and learning!

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Sunday, January 6, 2013
(a) What is the role of the KPO to serve the organization? When I see this question it takes me back to when I was taught the essence behind the Quality Circle Program and how they began at Toyota (back in the 1950’s) based on Taiichi Ohno’s vision of developing his people. I remember when I was in my assimilation hiring process (learning Toyota history) they discussed the fact with us (new hires) that the program wasn’t designed to necessarily save the company money (ROI) in the very beginning; it was more so to develop people in problem solving, and ...

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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 large challenges here: How can we grasp customer preferences to design a product they’ll like (and buy)? How can we design the product to deliver these functional performances as well as genera ...

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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 we see is all there is” – it’s hard to realize that the way we see a situation is only our own perspective on whatever is going on: part of ...

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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 can front line people possibly teach us? 3) Everything wraps up nicely -- just like an MBA case study. 4) Problems are bad things -- smart, successful managers like us shouldn't have problems! 5) ...

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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?"
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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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: The boardroom is hard to convince, because it needs learning both lean and finance

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2011
At the latest lean conference in Paris one of the presenters was the producer of French TV’s most successful sitcom. We learned that what makes a sitcom work is the consistency of the characters. Since many authors work on sequential episodes, if there are many episodes between the one you’re currently writing and the last one showing, chances are character affecting events will have happened in the episodes still on paper in between you will not know. Not only this creates rework, but it also weakens the characters, and so, the attractiveness of the show. By applying lean concepts of ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Cap Ex is the key to understanding the life journey of a site – learning to think differently about investment is a make-or-break aim of lean

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, March 19, 2011
In the end, it’s all about Cap Ex. I’ve found that the best way to understand the past and future of a site is to find out what is the investment cycle on its main piece(s) of equipment. Auto industry, for instance, works around programs which last from two to four years, according to whether the car sells or not. In other industries, you can work the same machines until they collapse and the market wouldn’t notice. Flow industries are so dependent on one huge central investment, nothing much else matters. Not surprisingly, lean thinking affects investment decisions in many dimensions. ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Pick to light and learning to teach Jidoka

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010
It's not 100% pure jidoka as Art would have it because the machine itself never detected the defect - the operator still did, but I recently saw an application of "pick-to-light" in a semi-automatic assembly process: this is an automated line where operators fit parts into the machines which then assembles the product on palets, to end up with a final product. In this process, the plant had greatly progessed by simply noting defectives on the production analysis board, reacting rapidly and building up pareto charts to help them focus on the main problem. These actions allowed them to reduce considerably ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Jidoka is the key to on-the-job learning

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Thursday, August 5, 2010
I remember visiting Toyota’s French plant and standing in front of andon board: the call lights kept flashing on and off. An operator would call the team leader, who would sort the problem out within the imparted time before the fixed-point system would stop the line. “Management reactivity,” I said. “Nope,” they answered, “operator training.” “This isn’t used to get management to react faster to problems?” I insisted? “Operator training they repeated.” And so on. It took me a while to understand I was projecting our usual management models on Toyota’s practice. In my worldview, management’s role was to be there ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Define Success as Learning, and the Culture Will Follow

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, June 19, 2010
Culture is largely about how you define success, and the acceptable means to obtain this success. Within lean programs, the issue of failure rarely comes up because we define success as learning, and failure and success are intimately linked in the process. What we do find, is that some people take to it quite naturally, while others adamantly refuse to learn, whatever the consequences. I was recently on the shop floor in an automotive supplier plant with the operations manager, the plant manager and the area manager. They’d been working with lean for a number of years and had implemented several ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Learning To Think in Terms Of Lead Time

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, May 1, 2010
"Some people imagine that Toyota has put on a smart new set of clothes, the kanban system,” writes Shigeo Shingo more than twenty years ago, “so they go out and purchase the same outfit and try it on. They quickly discover they are much too fat to wear it! They must eliminate waste and make fundamental improvements in their production system before techniques like kanban can be of any help.” Lean IS about having no back-up inventory (or at least not much) and no workaround system, but it’ about getting there, not deciding this arbitrarily. We’ve all seen companies who do ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: The objective function in managing any system must be solving problems and learning

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Friday, March 12, 2010
The objective function in managing any system must be solving problems and learning.  There are four principles of a 'basic science' of system design, operation, and management, which if followed, generate, sustain, and accelerate high velocity learning, improvement, and innovation. If they are not followed, learning, improvement, and innovation are compromised. (This basic science has a sound theoretical underpinning as it is rooted in the science of closed loop control and experiential and experimental learning.) Learning, improvement, and innovation are core objective functions because the complexity of the 'socio-technical' systems (e.g., groups of people, doing interdependent work, to create value for others) upon which we depend for delivering value to customers. The complexity ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: a “problems first” attitude is the key to sustaining learning leadership

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The first answer is leadership, the second leadership and the third… leadership. But a very special and specific kind of leadership. Of all the quirks of the lean thinking the one that has always fascinated me is “problems first.” In practice this means we are not so interested in successes (the right results from the right process) because there is nothing to learn there – we are only interested in problems, failures, and things that don’t work as expected, because there is much to learn. “Problems first” also means that any employee can come up to a manager and discuss ...

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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

Jeff Liker: The Struggle to Inject Passion for Learning into Senior Executives

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, January 17, 2010
As one might expect from one of our most admired intellectual leaders of the learning organization movement, Peter Senge asks a penetrating, and in some ways painful question.  All of us who are writing for this lean blog are also lean advisors to organizations in some capacity.  We huff and we puff and we try to reorient the behavior and thinking of the organization to what we think of as the lean ideal.  In fact the one core principle that has brought us all together is that lean is about leadership and daily behavior, not a set of tools and ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Learning to Lead a Lean Transformation

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Friday, January 15, 2010
Question:  How do you help people see the depth of personal commitment it takes to lead a lean transformation? Thank you Peter Senge for your question. Generally speaking I currently coach leaders in practicing through three increasing levels of capability, in a behavior pattern I call the improvement kata.  The levels are awareness, able to do it, and able to coach it.  For some details on how, please see pages 243-6 in the book Toyota Kata (foreword by Tom Johnson, by the way!). --> Comment 1: "Discover," is the right word I think.  People can't learn how to lead such change from books, classroom ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Lean is about facing one’s problems and learning to solve them

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Thursday, December 24, 2009
Lean management is teaching the right people to solve the right problems the right way. None of this is easy. Senior management must agree to teach, not tell; middle managers must agree to learn. This is not easy and win/win doesn’t necessarily mean nice/nice. First off, it’s important to note that regardless how tough the managerial debate can become no serious lean practitioner has ever had a cross word for a frontline operator. In fact, many of the harshest discussions with middle-managers are about teaching respect for value-adding operators. The lean premise is that the people who add the value, who ...

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