Dr Deming’s symphony


Chris HOHMANN – Author

Gemba walking or assessing a process without Goal in mind may lead to false conclusions.

This post was inspired by a mention about Dr Deming and inefficiencies in orchestra on a Mark Graban’s podcast (at 34mn).

Let’s take a symphonic orchestra as an organization activating around 100 different resources (musicians) to deliver value to its customers (the audience).

Let’s take some newly Lean-trained but inexperienced people (could be some consultants) and have them gemba-walk the orchestra during a concert.

Chances are the gemba walkers go for a waste walk, not a gemba walk (listen to Mark’s Podcast about this) and may feedback:

  • Some musicians play only a ridiculous part of the time, wasting precious capacity
  • The number of musician can be reduced by combining all non-saturated duplicates: instead of having same instruments playing at the same time the same tune, the just-needed resources will play the parts sequentially, thus filling their unused capacity
  • Most musicians do not play at full sound volume, another kind of waste
  • Playing speed remains under maximum
  • If audience was aware of the wastes, audience would not pay for not-playing musicians neither for those playing below full loudness, full speed or turning pages instead of playing their instrument

Such gemba walkers look for local maximization assuming value for customer is getting the maximum out of every resource. Most probably they walk the organization (orchestra) process by process, or type of musical instruments after musical instruments, e.g. string, brass, woodwind, and percussion, disregarding the cross-functional aspects.

As they do not know the organisation’s Goal – this post’s assumption – neither what really makes value for customers (a common trait in reality), their otherwise valid findings lead to false conclusions.

Now let’s imagine the orchestra following the advice and the next concert with all remaining musicians playing at top speed and full power, all time.

Quite funny, isn’t it?

That’s how successful companies laugh at their ill-advised competitors.

Still funny?

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