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People Bottlenecks

In the flow of a manufacturing plant, the bottleneck should often be the most valuable, or at least most expensive asset. We actually should be designing our processes around that fact, and then ensuring there is no unnecessary waste in the process that affects that bottleneck. In the Theory of Constraints, this is called “elevate […]

Stop saying you're busy

“How are you?” someone would ask. “Busy” was my natural response. But over 100s of repeated responses, it seemed insufficient to describe just how busy I felt. So the response would vary from “very busy” to “extremely busy” to “a bit overwhelmed at the moment.” Was I looking for pity, or trying to impress people […]

Reflections at the end of 15 years with the Lean Learning Center

When I co-founded the Lean Learning Center 15 years ago, I never thought I would be leaving. It was my long-term vision that when I’m 70 years old (assuming I’m able to get that far), I’d still go back and play a bit of a role in teaching the Lean Experience, which was the course […]

Technology's evolving role in supporting continuous improvement

Continuous improvement has always had a strained relationship with technology, for both good reasons and bad. One of the good is that doing things manually and building your own systems can be a one of the most productive means of learning you can create. One of the worst reasons is that because Toyota wasn’t using […]

Embracing the scientific method

This post originally appeared on the blog at Lean Learning Center.  I read plenty of disturbing statements about lean, but I read one recently that really caught my attention because it seemed to rip the core of lean out of lean, and then almost claim credit for putting it back in. I was reading a […]

The CEO Can't Champion Everything

In my travels from one company to another, I hear many of the following phrases… “We need executive sponsorship.” “We need this to be owned top-down.” “We need the CEO to champion our lean efforts.” These are phrases that I hear over and over as I talk to companies about their lean journeys. I also […]

Don't Limit Your Sources of Learning

Everyone wants to copy the best. That’s why companies such as Toyota and General Electric have been popular sources of benchmarking. That’s why Chrysler was so highly benchmarked when we were the most profitable car company. In the lean community, I have observed a common practice of filtering ideas based on whether they come from […]

When to coach the process, and when to coach the solution

Do you think of yourself as a coach? When I ask this question, almost every single hand goes up. But what does that really mean? Do we have a process? Or do we confuse sharing our little bits of wisdom with coaching? To be an effective coach, you must combine process with intention. Today I […]

A Call to Action

Don’t generate news; do something newsworthy. Don’t just post on facebook your distaste of political decisions; get involved, go vote, or run for office. Don’t complain at the water cooler; have the courage to have difficult conversations with the right people. Don’t sulk or carry guilt; go apologize. Don’t just wish you were somewhere else; […]

Everyone is responsible for their systems

In the lean mindset, there is generally an intent to show respect for people, to blame the system instead of the individual, and give people what they need to be successful. But how far should we go to avoid blame? Who is ultimately responsible for the system that generates the results? Must we go all […]

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