Volume 1 / Issue 6 / June 6, 2016
A Decade ago – would your vision of lean for 2017 be similar?
You may find this interesting. Well over a decade ago, Dan Jones – one of the fathers of lean – gazed into his crystal ball to prophesy just what the vision of a lean world might look like in 2017. And who better. His reading of the future vision for lean was printed in the HPS eLetter over 10 years ago and appears below.
Dear Colleagues in Lean
Attending the 10th anniversary celebrations of Jim Womack's Lean Enterprise Institute in the USA set me thinking about the next ten years of lean. The lean movement around the world has achieved great things in the last decade. Between us all we have infected organizations in almost every sector across the globe with lean. Some are well down the path while others like services and healthcare are in the early stages.
We have figured out how to break the mental models blocking progress with lean in sectors like distribution, process industries, healthcare, construction and the public sector. And we have written down much of the core lean knowledge to enable us to design value streams in all kinds of situations. We have also created a huge army of lean practitioners and lean consultants and have established 14 Lean Institutes in each of the main economies to support the dissemination of lean.
Those who say the glass is half empty rather than half full - and I think this reflects different temperaments - rightly say there is still a huge amount to be done. They ask how many organizations even remotely approach Toyota's level of lean performance. The answer is not many. But in most industries outside automotive what counts is using lean to leap ahead of your competitors.
So what are the challenges ahead and what should our agenda be for the next decade? One way to look at this is to imagine looking back from 2017 and asking what we would like to see done by then. Here is my list - I would be interested to hear yours.
First I would like to see one organization in every sector that has progressed far enough in their lean journey to be using lean to change the business model in their industry. By this I mean building on their newly developed lean capabilities to rethink the product, the service, the processes and the location of what they do to serve their customers in a very different way. A bank that could custom manage all my cash, investments, pensions, insurance policies etc. conveniently with little hassle and for a reasonable price. A car company who could manage all my needs for personal mobility. A retailer who could search for and deliver all the things I need to run my household etc. Some firms like Tesco are thinking this way - most are still asleep to these opportunities.
Second I would like to see as large a body of knowledge and publications on lean leadership, lean management and lean strategy as we now have on lean process design and lean operations. Part of this will involve the systematic evaluation of the different transformation models being used by firms and by consultants, to distil what works from what does not. Part of it involves working out what managing a process-focused organization will involve. In part it will also mean rethinking lean strategy back from the customer rather than forwards from our existing assets.
Third I would like to see lean thinking as a core part of the curriculum - from teaching problem solving in primary schools to teaching lean management in executive education courses. Because lean knowledge is only really learnt experientially this will entail fundamentally rethinking the way education is delivered.
Fourth we have not been very good at reaching out beyond the lean movement to articulate the potential societal benefits of lean. For instance, economists and liberal commentators still think management is a black box where firms must be efficient to maximize their profits. They really do not understand the powerful dynamic lean introduces in every sector which transcends arguments about structures and ownership.
The HR communityis still suspicious about whether lean enhances or diminishes the experience of work. Again we need to document those lean work practices and experiences that unlock the enthusiasm we have all seen and dispel myths like standardization kills creativity - when done right it does exactly the opposite.
Lean also has a lot to contribute to environmental movement as it is increasingly driven by evidence rather than often incorrect emotional responses. In almost every case a new lean business model will involve less unnecessary human effort, transport, energy use and pollution.
If we can do all this then lean will be well on the way to becoming the dominant business model, replacing the mass production business model developed by Alfred Sloan and Jack Welch.
Daniel T Jones, founder of the Lean Enterprise Academy.
Dan founded the Lean Enterprise Academy in the UK in concert with the Lean Enterprise Institute which Jim Womack founded circa 1990 in the US. Dan has retired as the Chairman but certainly remains globally active. Make a point of visiting the Lean Academy to see how the UK – and many other European organizations are advancing lean.