Breakthrough comes in different flavors.
Those of us who've grown up in manufacturing tend to think in terms of Operational Excellence - whose objective is Efficiency.
We seek to enhance flow in our major value streams by reducing waste (muda).
Our breakthrough activities typically focus on Manpower, Machinery, Methods and Materials.
Taiichi Ohno, our Godfather & founder of the Toyota Production System (TPS), famously declared:
"All we are trying to do is reduce the time between the customer ordering the product and our getting paid."
The system Ohno developed is justly famous, revered & imitated.
But is that all there is to Breakthrough?
Efficiency is a splendid capability, and often sufficient in itself. But is that all there is?
Don't wish to be misunderstood. TPS, in my view, is one of the past half century's grandest achievements.
But in his travels, your business nomad has learned that there's always another mountain range.
Apple, for example, has repeatedly shown that Effectiveness - doing the right things - can trump Efficiency.
The IPhone, IPod and IPad are not terribly well made. (How many drops before your IPad stops working?)
Do the corresponding value streams flow?
But the Design is so elegant, it doesn't matter.
In this case, getting the right things done, trumps doing things right.
In summary, the topography of business is complex & dynamic. There's always another mountain range.
Lean thinkers need to reflect on what we don't know, which far exceeds what we do know.
In upcoming blogs I'll dig into other kinds of breakthrough.