I happened across an article, just a couple of weeks ago, about the alleged demise of Six Sigma. (Read the article here.) Now, I’ve never been either a huge fan or a detractor of Six Sigma. I myself am not a Six Sigma any-kind-of-belt but I took a fair amount of statistics in college and grad school, some of it pretty advanced. All to say, I’m aware of both the utility and the limits of statistical tools of the sort Six Sigma practitioners use. I’m also aware that Six Sigma isn’t just a bundle of statistical tools, rather it’s an overall approach to analyzing and addressing variation of both processes themselves and the outputs they deliver. Finally, I’m aware that, the only thing the media like better than boosting a particular management “fad” (and I use that term cautiously, mainly because I don’t like it. It’s most often used by lazy journalists writing the sorts of articles I’m about to refer to)…is tearing management “fads” apart. The article in question isn’t quite the latter but it is a good example of an article that gets a lot of stuff wrong as it makes the case that Six Sigma is, perhaps, passe`. Mind you, it’s not a bad article…in fact, it’s well worth reading. But…well, let’s take a look at the article in a bit of detail and I’ll go over some of my quibbles.
I’ve read some good books on lean. In fact, I always have my clients buy Daniel Mann’s “Creating a Lean Culture”.
I confess…I wrote that post title as “click bait” to get you to read this article. But a lot of what’s in many lean texts hasn’t been helpful to me in my work. Continue reading “Every Book I’ve Read About Lean Is Bull****”
I don’t know Larry and he doesn’t know me, so this is unsolicited and uncompensated applause for a smart guy who seems to know a lot about lean. I say that because I always agree with what he writes. And that’s saying something…I once wrote some guy an email lambasting him for his superficial lean article and he sent one back, calling me every thing but a child of God. In Larry’s case, I feel almost as if I could just link to his posts rather than writing any of my own!
So…what has me singing Larry’s praises? Well, all his articles are good and should be read but two in particular perked me up.
I’ve said any number of times that one of the problems with lean is alleged “experts” who say stuff that just ain’t so. I just ran across an article that crams a lot of “just ain’t so” stuff into a few paragraphs. Here’s the article: Next Generation Lean: Why Lean Too Often Requires a Leap of Faith. (I’m going to quote some of the most egregious statements (and there are a lot of them) so you might want to just stay here.) Right off the bat, you know the article is likely to be pretty off track…lean NEVER requires a leap of faith. It’s benefits are proven many times over. But, let’s dig in, anyway, to see what other nonsense we can uncover.
A few posts ago, I mentioned I was reading (or was about to read) a book I’d come across, The Lean Farm, authored by Ben Hartman. Well, I’m about two-thirds the way through and I’d recommend it even for (maybe, especially for) folks who are applying lean concepts and methods in other industries. (Sometimes, examples and illustrations hit home better when they are just a bit outside our intellectual comfort range.)
The book is very nicely organized. The author does a good job of breaking lean down into its most important elements. Further, Hartman provides lots of illustrations and examples of his own application of lean tools and methods on his small farm. Readers familiar with lean won’t learn much that’s new but will be interested in how an astute practitioner has been able to apply lean tools in an agricultural setting. “Newbies” will get as good an introduction to lean ideas and methods as there is.
Hey, I just got another article posted on Industry Week’s web site! It rambles a bit, perhaps, but I’m particularly proud of this one. It addresses my own experience that company leaders often start out honestly committed to a lean initiative but, later, lose energy for it because they never see it as closely integrated with the company’s overall strategy. Check it out and let me know what you think!
I just came across an article, “What Can Small Farms Learn From a Car Company?”. The article reports, briefly, on a small farm that has been implementing lean concepts successfully. The farmer in question has written a book about his experiences that I just ordered from my local library (one of the very coolest examples of the manner in which modern tech does, in fact, benefit us is the ability to find and request a book one has just learned of from a wide network of libraries across the country and have it delivered to one’s local library, all free for nothing), entitled The Lean Farm.
I actually didn’t learn much from the article as to just how the farm is implementing lean concepts and methods (I hope to get more of that from the book). There was an example of moving some tools closer to where they were being used that was interesting…I guess. I always worry about that sort of illustration…it’s the sort of thing that any auto mechanic or woodworking shop operator can impart. My fear is that “lean” gets reduced to a set of “productivity tips and hacks”.
That said, the article does mention the idea of “value is whatever the customer says it is”, push vs pull thinking, and reduction of inventory and overall complexity through reduction in number of crops planted, number of acres planted, and overall inventory.
I’ll let you know more when the book comes in and I’ve read it. I like that the article and book are devoted to an arena in which we don’t usually think of applying lean methods and concepts. In fact, for some, the idea of “lean farm” brings to mind “factory farm”, a less than appealing image. (One the more cringe-worthy such monikers, I always thought was “lean hospital”. Would you take a member of your family to an institution that billed itself as a “lean hospital”?) But, as we all know, “lean” isn’t about getting “lean”. It’s about analyzing one’s business and the operations within it that produce value, then making changes in those processes so that the value delivered to customers is increased with as little loss as possible. It’s about maximizing value by maximizing the utility of the resources and inputs we use. That thinking can be applied to a hospital, a hotel, a farm…or a car company.
I found an article about lean in healthcare over at Mark Graban’s Lean Blog that describes a horrific set of circumstances an acquaintance of his and the acquaintance’s wife experienced at the Emergency Room of a nearby hospital. You should read the entire article (How Can a Story Like This Occur?) but here are a few excerpts that will give you a good idea as to what happened:
Actually, according to the article, it does. The basics of time management are the same now as they’ve always been. Just like lean methods…you actually have to do them and stick with them to make them work. So, yeah, it’s kind of a “click bait” headline but a good article, nonetheless.
It’s a bit academic and I don’t agree with the premise (see my comment below the article) but I’m a sucker for anything about organizational culture.
OK…three from HBR. What can I say but I like their stuff. Check out the comments. Not everyone agrees that there’s a difference between implementation and execution but I found it an interesting idea.
If you only read one of these four articles…make it this one. It’s long, but I guarantee you’ll stick with it. It’s a detailed story, written by a surgeon, about one of the eight wastes of lean: overproduction (though the author doesn’t mention lean or eight wastes.) The author wrote another article several years ago, The Cost Conundrum, that I’m going to read next.