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lean - ReModel International

Lean six sigma improvements need improving

Where Is Lean and Six Sigma Going Next?

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Lean six sigma improvements need improving

If you are in the business of improvement, then you must use lean, 6 sigma or total quality tools.  Or you have no credibility.

But does it make you effective?

The lean movement outside Toyota has been around for 30 years and yet it still only scores about 25% success rate (ref 1).

Why doesn’t it do better?

Some say ‘try harder’.  Many say that the key part of the Toyota method is ‘respect for people’, ‘empowerment’ or something similar, and that this is still missing from most implementations.  We need more ‘soft skills’, supposedly.  And even if we had them, would we be able to fight the rising tide of shareholder power (“give me results this quarter”) over stakeholder power (“sustain and grow the community that the business feeds from and to”)?   Big issues that ‘trying harder at lean’ will not solve.

That’s the context.

What does it mean for those who practice lean?  Those whose job is to improve things?

One thing is for sure. You do not have job security.  If 3/4 of the time you fail, those accountants aren’t going to want to keep paying you.  I’ve certainly been there, although I jumped before I was pushed.

So what do you do…as an individual working as a change agent?

You have to take a different approach.  You should think about improving yourself, as a person rather than as a professional.  I mean Personal Development not Professional Development.  Not another 5S or Taguchi or Poka Yoke program.  I mean grow as a person.  More Tony Robbins than Shigeo Shingo.

Why?

Because those failures are failures to change people’s minds.  How do you do that if you can’t change your own mind? It starts with you.

Now I know that this is a scary thought for engineer types.  In fact, I have to admit that I ran screaming from a live 2 day Tony Robbins event after only 4 hours of it.  Luckily I have a partner who understood about Terror Barriers and the way through them.  We learnt a model for understanding this that can be taught and that people can internalize.

We live in an ever faster changing world.  You can see this in the strong reaction to it in all walks of life.  The world needs change agents more than ever.  But those change agents must be skilled in more than Lean.  Then they will be really valuable.

There’s some learning to do.  You need to get past your own terror, then you can help others.

Once you get past the terror, you will find freedom.

  1. Ignizio, James P. 2009. Optimizing Factory Performance: Cost-Effective Ways to Achieve Significant and Sustainable Improvement. 1st ed. Mcgraw-Hill Professional.
Phase B Paradigm

Lean is a Phase B Paradigm

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Phase B Paradigm

Or How to Provide Job Security for Lean Experts…

Joel Barker talked about the life cycle of paradigms in his 1992 book ‘Future Edge’.

His definition of the word ‘paradigm’ is more general than mine. He defines it as a consciously defined model or way of doing things that is useful because it solves lots of problems.
My own definition separates ‘paradigms’ from ‘models’ by saying that the paradigm is what you get when a model is sub-conscious. Despite this difference, we are in the same field, because we both care about how you change them.

He talks about the evolution of paradigms. In Phase A, they are being tried out, pioneered and tested on problems that had previously been poorly solved. In Phase B they pass into the mainstream and become adopted as the ‘go-to’ approach for (in this case) improving operations.

Lean and 6 Sigma have been mainstream for several decades, and so very much in Phase B.

But what happens to phase B paradigms?

They handle many situations, but not all. Over time, they accumulate unsolved problems. Sometimes a hammer is NOT the tool to use. Or perhaps I should say the philosophy does not help.

So what are the operational problems that Lean & 6 Sigma fail to solve?
Here are some that we have had to deal with:
• Argue against a proposed factory closure
• Reconcile supplier disputes
• Create co-operation between ‘rival’ sites
• Compare manufacturing systems of product concepts (during design)

…and some that we might have to deal with
• When to change to a new product concept
• Optimize new product design before start of manufacture

…and one that nobody talks about
• How to provide job security for lean experts

The solution to these is one or more new paradigms.

We have one: it’s the use of explicit models that force both parties to a disagreement to be clear about what they want.
But there are an infinity of other new paradigms that would work.

Lean and 6 sigma will keep you going for now.
Eventually you will need to adapt and adopt a new paradigm or two.