Lean Thinking still gets it right


After practicing Lean for 20 years, first as a researcher, then as a workshop consultant, then in building large corporate programs with Freddy and now as a CEO coach, I’ve been reflecting on how I approach lean – particularly since, with Freddy’s guidance – my last ten years have been about understanding the “making products” side of “making people to make products”, which is all about lean engineering.
Recently, on the gemba with a CEO, this is what we discussed:
1-Deeply understanding the value of the company’s offering (present and future) through value analysis and value engineering kaizen efforts.
2-Visualize the step-by-step processes of how this value is delivered in a way that takes the ambiguity out of routine decisions and that highlights abnormal situations for team members, with clear ways to carry out kaizen activities.
3-Pull every activity (here, we were discussing Kanban in the software development department) to learn how to solve problems and progressively improve the flow of work by reducing muri, mura, and muda.
4-The goal of continuous improvement is… continuous improvement. No matter how much people have progressed, improve the visual management, improve test methods in order to improve the work. Create constant challenge and do constant kaizens to involve everybody in coming up with initiatives and participating to build the company.
5-Create new products by deeper mastery of technical processes rather than looking for breakthrough ideas. Breakthrough ideas do arise, as engineers see knew possibilities in what can be done with integrating known technologies and new ones, but know-how is the only way to deliver robust products (notice, we’re back to value).
What strikes me, in retrospect, is how close this is to Jim Womack and Dan Jones’ original five lean principles:

  1. Value
  2. Value streams
  3. Flow
  4. Pull
  5. Perfection

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