Lean Offers a Variety of Choices to drive a Nail


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If we review just a few of the different Lean venues of Lean Six Sigma, Lean Startup, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Healthcare, Lean Software and that upstart of Lean Marketing, it seems once there is a methodology that works we all piggy back on the term to create some foundation for us to tweak and create an opportunity for ourselves. Which is a good thing; it expands the foundational base of the method by bringing new life through new ideas and structure. It is a compliment to the brand, let’s say. It creates Growth. Traditionalists may argue, which is a good thing too, because it reinforces those foundations that make the methodology strong in the first place.

When thinking how Lean has proliferated through industry after industry, we owe a great deal of this credit to the Toyota Production System and Dr. Edwards Deming. However, Lean was originally coined by a MIT Group studying several Japanese motor companies, not just Toyota and Dr. Deming provided little directly to the promotion of Lean itself. I find studying the practices of Komatsu and Honda, for example, very insightful. Examples Such as Four-Fields Mapping and Lean 3P being the ones that cross my mind.

When we look at actual methodologies, such as Lean versus Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma, we make a comparison how Lean is not limited to a process; it is a way of doing business. When we compare Lean to Systems Thinking, we arguably could say that Systems Thinking is a way of Thinking and not operationally orientated. If you buy into Lean, it has seemed to develop as the best of both worlds.

I wrote a blog post a few months back, The Dead Language of Systems Thinking, in it I said

In summary, I believe that all systems are very similar. The differences from DMAIC to PDCA to Casual Loops are not all that different. The difference is the path we take to get there and the people we align ourselves with to accomplish it. It is a shame we spend so much time bashing the other methods. Lean happens to be a popular business model at this time. For Systems Thinkers to say that it is a tool box, it appears to me that they are internalized in their own thinking. They even cited ASQ as adding Systems Thinking to the Lean body of knowledge. What they failed to realize, it was being added to the Lean body of knowledge, not the other way around.

I left thinking that Systems Thinking may be a dead language. It is seldom spoken in business and only a few study it.  It may be the basis and important part of how we must view things, but it has been swallowed up in the dialect of other methodologies. It reminds me of the Latin language. Latin is an important part of most Mediterranean languages, but it is not spoken. Its usefulness has passed.Hammer and nail

I hope that the foundational roots of Lean, which I believe to be PDCA/Kaizen, remains strong and does not fall the way of Systems Thinking or swallowed up by one of the subsets. Lean is a sound business model with a toolbox that includes much more than a hammer.  Using the Jobs to be Done metaphor what we are looking for is a driven nail,  the outcome. Lean gives us that flexibility to choose how to drive the nail.

P.S. We all know the concept known as the law of the instrument or Maslow’s hammer; “If the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail”.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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