Monday, January 16, 2017

Three Hundred Thousand Views – Thanks, Folks

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

What if nobody reads the damned thing?
Pascal Dennis

A few weeks ago the Lean Pathways Blog & I observed a milestone, a footprint in time: 300,000 views

Mama mia, you all are reading our humble & imperfect offerings. When we started in 2011, I didn’t know if you’d be interested.

But I felt it was important to do for you all, in some small way, what very kind Japanese senseis did for me when I was a young, thick engineer.

There is a right way of managing, of leading, of being. There are core standards of behavior, just as there are core technical standards in the great professions.

Leadership is informed and governed the Great Virtues, just as Chemical Engineering, the profession I was trained in, is informed and governed by the laws of chemistry, physics, mass transfer, heat transfer and the like.

Our blog seeks to highlight these core principles of leadership and management, which are the foundation of achievement, growth & fun.

Let me bow deeply to my collaborators – Dianne Caton, our redoubtable graphic artist, and Steve Macleod, our IT leader.

Thanks, Di and Steve, for all your fine work & support.

And thanks to you all for your interest, fine questions and feedback.

Here’s to a safe, happy and engaging 2017,


Monday, January 9, 2017

More on Walt Disney

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Further to my earlier blog posting, here are more musings on Walt Disney & lean principles.

Walt's natural instinct for Strategy Deployment helped him define Disneyland's famous Four Disciplines, which first appeared in 1950's training manuals.

They are (in order of importance):
  • Safety
  • Courtesy
  • Showmanship
  • Efficiency

I'm struck by the parallel with Toyota's famous four:
  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Delivery
  • Cost

At Toyota manager training these became our mantra. We came to understand that each focus area built on the last. Safety improvements came first, then quality and delivery. Cost improvement was the last to come, but it stuck when it did, because we'd built a solid foundation for it.

Strange how so many companies focus on Cost alone -- and come to grief thereby. Walt also understood the importance of touching the head and the heart -- another cornerstone of Strategy Deployment.

"The thing that makes us different is our way of thinking....We seem to know when to 'tap the heart'. Those who hit the intellect only appeal to a very limited group." I recently took my family to Disneyworld in Orlando. I casually asked several "cast members" about the Four Disciplines.

Each was able to rhyme them off and explain their significance.

Focus and alignment -- half a century later.



Monday, January 2, 2017

Walt Disney -- Lean Thinker

By Pascal Dennis

The other day I was again leafing through Bob Thomas’ fine biography of Walt Disney.

Walt's remarkable imagination, shone through, as did his energy, optimism and decency.
But there was something else too...

Walt Disney was a consummate Lean thinker.

He practiced the fundamentals every day, including visual management, go see, leader standard work and strategy deployment. is contributions to visual management are legendary. He invented story-boarding, for example, the visual approach to movie-making -- and so much else.

He practiced Go See every day. "I see myself as a little bee," he said. "I go from one area of the studio gathering pollen and sort of stimulate everybody." As a result he had a deep grasp of the situation and was able to articulate strategy in compelling ways.

The creation of Disneyland in the early 1950's was a brilliant example of Strategy Deployment. Walt began with a clear and compelling vision which he articulated through images (story-boards). His vision was informed by extensive travel and research into amusement parks around the world. He knew what worked and what didn't work. As ever, he grounded his vision in concrete experience.

Then he put together an exemplary team, deployed elements of the plan to each team leader and checked progress with visual tools and leader standard work. A remarkable leader indeed.

It strikes me, again, that what we call "Lean" is just good business.

Best regards,


Monday, December 19, 2016

Year-End: Why Is Reflection So Difficult?

By Pascal Dennis

'Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.'
Flatt & Scruggs

End of year – daylight dwindles, leaves spiral down, creatures big & small prepare for Winter.

Time to hit the PAUSE button and reflect.

What were our goals this year? What was our plan?

What worked? What did not work & why?

What have we learned? How do we apply what we’ve learned?

Difficult questions, all.

Reflection is hard, certainly for me. It’s much easier to pretend, deny, deflect.

It’s much easier to jump to conclusions, and false ‘countermeasures’.

The smarter a management team, the more prone it is to such behavior.

Our attitude seems to be, "I'm so smart & successful, the basics no longer apply..."

The great country music duo, Flatt & Scruggs, put it well:

"Everybody wants the answer, but nobody wants to ask why.

Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die"

Why are we like this? Hard-wiring, in my view.

What to do?

1) Recognize & accept it, as a color-blind person accepts she can't see certain colors, and adjusts accordingly.

Let’s admit, "You know, I'm not very good at reflection, or at looking at things objectively. I see what I want to see. I jump to conclusions & half-baked countermeasures."

Such humility usually blunts the worst of our excesses.

2) Build reflection into your routines.

After every major project, launch, strategy, cycle -- hit the PAUSE button.

Our old TMMC plant was especially good at this, and over time it became muscle memory.

So here’s a challenge to all of us. Pull in your team and reflect on the questions above. Answer them honestly and share what you’ve learned. Then apply them.

Here's to a safe & prosperous 2017.