Professor Sobek and I had an invitation recently to participate in a new website called The Lean Edge with some fellow lean authors. The concept is that various authors will be asked a question by a guest participant. Each author will answer the question with a few paragraphs of response. The idea is not to give the same answer but to give some different replies from different points of view. For now the participating authors in addition to ourselves are:
- Michael Balle
- Orry Fiume
- Dan Jones
- Jeff Liker
- Mike Rother
The initial question was asked by Professor Rob Austin author of Artful Making and other books as well.
As exciting as the lean ideas are, there’s a concern a person might have that starts with the name: Lean. As in “lean and mean” or as in “cut your staff by half to make your operations leaner.” How do you keep lean initiatives from being bushwhacked by the cost cutting crowd, especially in today’s down economy? This is not an abstract worry. I’ve seen some so-called “lean” initiatives that looked suspiciously like cost cutting to get an organization ready for sale or spin off. How do you keep a program called “lean” from being (or perhaps becoming, step by step, as managers feel pressure) an apparently principled smoke screen to mask ruthless cost cutting? Partly this seems like an issue of priorities: Which take precedence, lasting improvements, or short term cost cutting? Managers might feel pressure to do both. And even when lean isn’t a smoke screen, people might suspect that it is, which amounts to an implementation problem. How do you get people who you need to cooperate in a lean initiative to put aside their suspicions and fears and embrace the overall philosophy?
Please visit the site to see some sample answers and submit reader comments. The purpose is thoughtful discussion from different points of view!