James P. Womack, founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute, recently gave a very important talk at the 2016 Lean Transformation Summit. View the video or slides of his talk. I’d like to call your attention to slides 11, 12, and 13 – especially number 13. It seems the Lean Enterprise Institute’s advice for the next 25 years can be summed up as this:
- Keep doing what we have told you to do in the past: value stream maps, A3 reports, and PDCA
In the little picture, it makes sense to do what is in your control and to ignore things that are out of your control. Although, I recommend that you instead focus on kaizen, because kaizen is the most powerful thing you can do. It is the core of Lean.
But in the big picture, continuing to do what has previously been done, with meager results, seems ill-advised. The big problems that have long followed the Lean movement are, apparently, simply to be ignored.
The big problems include:
- Lean transformation process failures and failure analysis
- How classical economics cripples the understanding and spread of Lean management
- Perpetual confusion between Lean and TPS
- Widespread existence of Fake Lean
- Brushing aside worker’s criticisms of Lean
- Ignoring strategic errors
- Not learning from mistakes
- Not learning from history
- And other abnormal conditions
For the global leaders of a movement that professes a scientific way of thinking and attentiveness to problems and problem-solving, ignoring the big problems associated with the Lean movement is a remarkably unscientific approach to advancing the understanding and practice of Lean management.
We can do better in the next 25 years than that, but it will take better leadership and more teamwork.