• Joe Rizzo. Director of the New England Lean

“If you have to ask, “What is next after Lean, you really don’t understand Lean”

“If you have to ask, “What is next after Lean, you really don’t understand Lean”.

Mark DeLuzio, Lean Pioneer and Architect of the DANAHER Business System, recently posted a comment on Lean which inspired many comments from his numerous contacts, myself included. In Mark’s own words, “The posts that I have made about the confusion in the Lean movement have generated hundreds of interesting discussion and controversial posts. Stepping back, they have proven my point that mass confusion exists today and that we need to get back to basics. There are no silver bullets…Lean is hard work and few have had real success. But this does not stop them from contributing to the confusion.

Mark pointed out that a majority of confusion has been created by consultants and academics trying to sell their wares. He used Agile vs. Lean as an example of what he was talking about, but he could have used Six Sigma, LeanSigma, TOC, Demand Flow Technology and others to prove my point.

One of the main points that Mark made is, “If you have to ask, “What is next after Lean, you really don’t understand Lean”.

Often times we fall victim to the sirens of the newest thing that comes along. Mark mentioned a few, above. But he could easily have added “KATA”, “GEMBA”, or EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.

Also, if you do understand Lean, and you do understand Six Sigma, you know that there is no such thing as Lean Six Sigma. They are two completely different things.

Mark goes on to say, “If someone was to ask me what the one most important thing to know when embarking on a Lean Transformation, my answer would be as follows: Lead from the top, be sure your transformation is principle based, not tool based. Never build your transformation around a toolset. Yes, tools are extremely important, but in the absence of principles, you will never achieve excellence from an organizational perspective. This is the mistake that has been made a countless number of times: building a transformation with tools such as Six Sigma and TOC. I have never seen a successful transformation when it was simply built around tools.”

Lean is term that was coined by James Womack and Dan Jones in their books, “The Machine that Changed the World” and “Lean Thinking”. Lean itself is a word invented by consultants, Womack and Jones that really should be called “The Toyota Production System”. Womack and Jones have become very famous and probably, very wealthy, simply by describing the Toyota Production System by a new word, Lean.

Mark’s point is that Lean is very basic. It is customer oriented and involves the total engagement of all employees to help with problem solving and generate improving ideas. I once attended a meeting where Jim Womack described Lean as a Management System. And that is what it is, no more, no less.

For those of us who have spent many years in Manufacturing, we all know that Manufacturing is fraught with problems, all day, every day. Manufacturing Management and Production Management is all about solving problems and getting work done through others. How well do you get along with your people? Can you engage them in a conversation about problems and issues that they are dealing with? Are they willing to offer up solutions to those problems? Do you ever ask them, “How can we make your job easier and better?”

If you can answer those questions in a positive manner, you might begin to understand what Lean is all about.