Lean confusion is a 3-page article by Jill Jusko, posted on industryweek.com on Aug 13, 2010. Despite the time past, this article is still actual and may well continue to remain that way. This post is friendly recension of mine, having read it long after its publishing (2016 vs. 2010).
Jusko’s article starts on the love-hate debate about Lean, even if not expressed in those terms, between proponents crediting Lean (Manufacturing) for many measurable benefits while opponents deny them.
“Why the diversity of opinions regarding lean? (…) answer is that people are confused.” both about what defines Lean as well as how to implement it.
In order to clarify what lean is, Jusko proposes Jim Womack’s definition “to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.” before quoting more of Womack’s in-depth explanation about Lean Thinking.
That’s the problem with Lean definitions. Either you tell them in a concise way, which may not suffice for the listener to correctly understand the intent nor grasp the full extend of it, or you’ll have to deliver a mini conference on it. None of these two options being certain to avoid misunderstandings or negative shortcuts.
“In reality, the definition of lean frequently varies depending upon whom you speak with — whether it should or not.“ the article goes on. Yes, still true. This is depending both on who explains and who listens.
For instance, talking to a senior executive who has only very few time to listen to the explanation, an “elevator pitch” is required, even so “doing more with less”, while perfectly true may end up with undesirable, mostly social, effects. On the other hand, going for a more detailed explanation may leave the impression Lean is difficult to explain – and understand – or the proponent is not mastering enough his subject to keep it short.
Even so Lean is strategic and should be considered so, many organization want the quick wins and go for the “tactical” implementation, which is more about the Lean tools than Lean Thinking and developing a Lean culture. “execution — or lack thereof — is a significant contributor to a lean implementation’s success” Jusko reports.
On page 3 of Jusko’s article, the “discussion” goes on in the section “what’s missing?” with two experts quotes, one about the necessary focus on machinery, the other about the importance of the human side. Both are right, but their explanations put that way may just… keep readers confused?
If I can put my two cents in, I would advise to go for the human side first. Changing anything on machinery with a deep knowledge about it can be long and deceptive, while properly using the available means – train people, organize work and flow better, avoid stoppages and breakdowns, etc. – yields higher return on investment.
The article ends with a kind of warning about asking “What’s Next Too Soon”, still true today as so many managers are convinced to “be lean” despite the facts and figures about their organization’s performance. Read “We are all Lean now. What’s next?” on this subject.
Few articles may keep their freshness after such a relatively long time after being published. It’s worth reading the original here: