Monday, June 26, 2017

Lean is a System

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

The eternal verities are just that, and we need to keep returning to them.

Lean methods have such an appealing clarity and intuitiveness that we can easily lose sight of the most important thing:

They’re just tools – methods, drills, routines that are part of a broader system and set of principles.

And that system, which some people call the Toyota Production System (TPS), helps us continually address the most important questions of management:

  • What is our Purpose?
  • What should be happening?
  • What is actually happening?
  • How do we get back to a good condition?
  • What is our ideal condition?
  • What will we do next to get closer to our ideal condition?

These questions are a fractal, of course, and apply at all levels from the front line (Level 1) on up.

And as parts of a system, Lean methods must express the core principles, and connect to:
  • Purpose, and
  • One another

If a given method, say 5S, does not connect to our over-arching Purpose, by helping to make problems visible, for example, why are we doing it?

And a given method like 5S only makes lasting sense and provides lasting value if it is connected to other methods, which in turn are connected to Purpose.

So 5S is connected to Standardized Work, which is connected to building quality into the process, which is essential if we are to flow our products & services to our customers, which is essential to meeting our Purpose.

You get the idea. Sorry to belabor the point, but losing sight of our core principles and purpose is a clear & present danger, perhaps the biggest one facing the ‘Lean movement’.

If we navigate according to our principles & purpose, we can change the world.

If not, we’ll perhaps deliver some helpful cost savings, and while being relegated to the dusty & damp management tool shed.

Best regards,


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