I was talking recently with a very smart distribution manager at one of my clients. We’ve been very involved with Workplace Organization and Visual Management all over the organization and especially in manufacturing. That fits my usual modus operandi.
The manager was telling me that his folks are getting a bit bored with these phases and are starting to wonder what the purpose of all this “lean stuff” is given that a strong focus on Workplace Organization doesn’t do much for them in the warehouse.
I just started reading Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors, written by Maryann Keller. It was published in 1989, so it’s not a new book by any stretch. A lot has happened to GM in the past 31 years. But it’s an interesting read for anyone interested in learning more about how big companies manage to screw things up in spite of having lots of resources at their disposal.
At any rate, the book discusses the bad days at the nearby (to me) Lordstown plant back in the 1970’s. That led me to the interwebs to learn more about all that, where I found the 1973 documentary Loose Bolts. (Click on this link.)
It’s about 30 minutes or so long and worth a viewing. The production values aren’t great but the interviews with some of the workers and supervisors at the plant are interesting to hear, especially given that they took place shortly after the three-week strike at the plant.
As one learns more about the conditions and management approach at Lordstown, it’s hard not to conclude that GM purposefully created intolerable conditions expressly for the purpose of engendering a strike.
I used to send IW articles about lean. But I’ve switched to covering corporate culture, change management, and employee engagement morale. Thus the two articles on culture and morale. With more to come.
There are a couple of reasons for this…
First, I cover lean here and in my email so I don’t have many ideas left for IW. I’d often go a year or two between submissions to IW about lean.
Second, lean is covered quite well by Larry Fast. I’ve linked to a couple of his IW articles here. He’s about the best I’ve read. (Lonnie Wilson, Jamie Flinchbaugh, and James Shook also come mind as better than average writers on the topic.) So I figured I’d leave the IW lean turf to him.
OK, I don’t actually want you to altogether forget about lean. I do want you to get rid of the notion (if you ever had it) that lean is a tool bag of tricks and techniques for wringing a few bucks out of your manufacturing processes or for getting another percentage point of efficiency from your employees. There are ways of achieving those ends if that’s what you want but lean ain’t it. Rather, lean is all about creating a smooth, consistent, predictable flow of information and materials through your organization. I found a couple of good articles that reinforce my thinking that I want you to check out.
I’ve often said that lean is NOT cost cutting. Maybe a better way to put it is, lean is one thing…cost cutting is another. I found an article that provides a few good examples of cost-cutting that aren’t lean. And that’s not a bad thing. Continue reading “Cost Cutting vs Lean”