By now most people that work in and around Lean understand that Vilfredo Pareto’s 80:20 law is alive and well, and not in a positive way. From all of the organisations that make an attempt the transition to Lean 80% ultimately fail.
What baffles me about this situation is that organisations have continued to utilise the same coaches and consultants, and therefore the same approach, to support them in their endeavours, and they in turn continue to deliver the same results, 80% failure. Is this not how Einstein defined insanity? Unfortunately there is little in the way of options in the Lean market place today and those that are currently making money out of this approach are, understandably, loathe to change.
The popular approach is to emulate what Toyota does, due to the fact that Lean has its origins in a study of Toyota that led to the publication “The Machine that changed the world”, unfortunately observation and study does not unearth what Toyota does, it unearths what Toyota has. This then leads to the application of what can be seen at Toyota including Standard work, 5s, JIT systems, Work balancing, A3 problem solving et al. This however is only a small subset of the entire system, not the system as a whole.
If you bought a car based on what you can see on the outside don’t be surprised when it doesn’t work due to there being no engine.
What’s missing is a clear and structured method by which organisations can learn those parts of the system that are almost always missed, either deliberately (in the too hard basket) or through ignorance. These are the things that equate to the tools adding value sustainably and also add the rest of the system to boot.
The current model delivers on continuous improvement and a focus on reducing Muda (one of the 3 types of waste) but where is the engine, i.e. respect for people and the focus on Mura and Muri?
Herein lies the problem. Organisations need to stop emulating what Toyota does and instead concentrate on what Toyota did and why. Only once this is understood can they begin to build their own production or operating systems. They should forget the templates, the forms, the documents that are introduced by consultants and external coaches and understand at depth what drove the development of those tools. Then, if the need is there, consider how can they best provide for this need.
I have been working for almost 20 years on building my knowledge in this area both from within Toyota and externally to it. I have been guilty of adopting the standard approach in many organisations and I have contributed to the 80% failure rate. I have however made note that those businesses that are successful have something else, something different from the rest, they have an engine.
Recently I have worked on distilling my 20 years of experience into something new, an approach which, to my knowledge has never been tried before and one that I think will turn success rates around. We cannot continue doing the same thing and expect different results.
This approach takes my knowledge of Toyota, my knowledge of the failure and success of Lean change and the principles, beliefs and behaviours behind the building of Toyota’s production system and creates a clear pathway to becoming Lean for any organisation that has the need and desire to succeed in this space.