Posted by: Knightbird | January 26, 2015

Lean Thinking as a Vaccine

In Washington State, Governor Christine Gregoire started Results Washington in recognition of the considerable success experienced by private businesses that adopted the Lean Management culture. Boeing, Virginia Mason, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Starbucks are among Washington based businesses who excel through their implementation of Lean Thinking. If a business is not engaged in Lean Thinking, they tend to die out and either goes bankrupt or become acquired by a more efficient business. Fiat has used elements of Lean Thinking, and it owns Chrysler. Because Chrysler wasn’t Lean, it was taken over by a Lean competitor. This made me consider Lean Thinking as a vaccine—something that prevents sickness or helps contain it. Some viruses can cause a very quick death. Think of Ebola, Smallpox, Pneumonia or HIV/AIDS. Without a vaccine, the death rate for contacting one of these viruses is significant.

One argument I encounter regularly in my Lean Thinking advocacy is resistance based on how different the opponent’s organization is. They believe their unique profession or service is immune from competition. And yet every organization in the US, public or private, started using a system of management that revolves around principles initiated by Henry Ford and refined by Alfred Sloane. Both ran automobile manufacturing companies. Toyota was a latecomer auto manufacturing. Yet it has forced all of its major competitors to take the Lean Thinking vaccine. Without changing their thinking, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all fell to Toyota dominance. Ford and GM changed their management systems with enough time to survive—barely.

Adopting Lean can help protect your business—whether it’s private or public, from an untimely death. School Districts and Local Governments have been taken over in Michigan because of their poor operating results. Businesses fail every day because they are poorly managed. Today, there are groups of individuals who are fighting against the public policy requiring mandatory vaccinations. That’s why we have outbreaks of diseases that were once thought eradicated. We have similar individuals who fight against the adoption of Lean Thinking. I just read an article about Lean Thinking in Education, by a former teacher who felt that Lean was a command and control system that dehumanized teachers. Doctors talk about not wanting to practice cookie cutter medicine. They refuse the vaccine and try to protect themselves in other ways.

The Lean Thinking vaccine works. That fact alone won’t encourage adoption of Lean Thinking. My advice. Take the vaccine, properly, following all of the recommendations from the Experts (like we do Physicians, only make sure they are truly experts) to introduce it as a culture led by the governing entity and top leadership.

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