Monday, August 11, 2014

Reprise: The Fog of Big Company Disease

By Pascal Dennis

Last time I talked about Big Company Disease and suggested that a key symptom is The Fog…

(It’s fun capitalizing it, and reminds me of a goofy same-name horror movie.

A pal & I have had great fun making up horror movie titles related to, ahem, other atmospheric emissions.)

Joking aside, the Fog is deeply frustrating and debilitating. Here are some symptoms:

Your purpose is unclear. You're not sure who your customers or suppliers are.

You don't know if you're ahead or behind.

You can't see your biggest problems.

So you spend a great deal of time in the "spin cycle".

Life becomes unpleasant so you naturally look for someone to blame.

You buffer the chaos with capacity -- your time.

Eventually, you burn out.

The leader’s most important job, in my view, is making the current condition visible – by gradually dispersing the Fog.

Visual management, standardized work and other core Lean tools are terrific enablers.

Lean principles & thinking are even better.

Best regards,



  1. Is there any value in understanding the root cause for the Fog? What usually "precipitates" managements' decision to make a move, whether towards Lean or another change? Is fear the best initial motivator?

  2. Good question. Yes, we need to understand the Fog's root causes, which vary widely. In some cases, it's simply size & scale of organization. In other causes, there's so much fear that people create Fog to protect themselves. In yet other cases, cause is core mental models. E.g. engineering-driven firms often believe that 'complexity is profound'. Best, pascal