On the web, there is a palpable buzz of failed or unsuccessful Lean initiatives (or organizations that fail Lean if you prefer that point of view). No wonder, to be honest, as many of these initiatives can at best be characterized as programs. And more often they are even no more than a collection of disjointed projects.
Staff is trained, external consultants are brought in – often trained by another external consultant in another company going through a similar “program” – and off we are. We start identifying waste and we might even create a current state value stream map. Enough potential to fill an action list covering several pages, and so our Lean program is born.
What a joke! In doing so, a Lean initiative will never transcend the character of being only a program: a collection of projects and actions to eliminate problems. And calling these projects and actions “kaizens” really doesn’t make it more Lean. And this is only further emphasized by pursuing the apparently required “quick wins” to win over the company’s management. What is the alternative? A system-based Lean transformation, sometimes referred to as Shikumi. (more…)