Thursday, January 22, 2015

Justice, PDCA and Paris, part 1

By Pascal Dennis

A terrible week in Paris, no?

I’d planned to blog about Justice & PDCA. It’s impossible not to also reflect on those terrible events.

What is Justice?

There are two aspects:

1) Adherence to a standard – e.g. a code, law, or for Lean practitioners, an image of ‘what should be happening’

2) “The habitual rendering to each man his lawful due” – Spinoza. In other words, ‘fairness’ – too each, his own.

Let’s reflect on the first definition. Justice, thus defined, directly informs all elements of the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, Lean’s core algorithm, and most obviously, the Check phase.

“Target, Actual, Please Explain,” was a core mantra at TMMC, our Toyota factory in Cambridge, Ontario.

Justice entails adherence to a standard, which could mean a manufacturing, legal or ethical standard. Organizations, and people, develop their own standards based on their Purpose.

The standard, in turn, makes OK/Not OK visible to all, so we can see & fix the problem. Hence the Green/Red traffic lights on our team boards, our Top Three Problem list and so on.

In an organization, standards protect us against decay, the powerful force of entropy. If we lower of standards for, say, safety, quality or productivity, our business results inevitably slide too. We get weaker.

For this reason, standards and stability form the foundation of the famous Toyota Production System.

What about the Paris massacre? Did the killers have a set of standards, or a ‘code’. Yes, clearly they did. Their code likely included ‘standards’ such as: “People who make fun of our religion should be killed.” – a revolting standard to most people.

But the killers, and their apologists, might argue they are ‘just’, because they live by a code.

Hence, the need for the second element of Justice: to each person, their lawful due. (Can any reasonable person argue that the Paris victims deserved to die?)

Justice, thus described informs Lean’s ‘respect for people’ principle.

Many people marched in Paris, including many world leaders. Were they all marching in support of freedom of speech?

Hard to believe - some the leaders who marched in Paris brutally repress journalists. So why were they marching?

Thuggish leaders were likely informed by the second element of Justice – (To each his lawful due), and not be any respect for freedom of speech.

I can imagine such leaders thinking, “The cartoonists did not deserve to die. Six months in jail and a hundred lashes would have been enough.”

In western democracies, there is now a competing standard to freedom of speech – that of political correctness, which may be roughly summarized as, “We should not say anything to offend anybody.”

Let me conclude with a few questions:

1. Which standard do you think is best, freedom of speech or political correctness (not offending anybody) - and why do you think so?

2. What’s the purpose of standards in an organization, and in a society?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.



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