2.28.2007

Are tool heads undermining your lean initiatives?

Some people think that lean is all about using tools. These people – they may be consultants, or they may be your own managers – may help you achieve some quick improvements that don’t last or prove to be less than hoped for.


 


We’d like to hear about your experience.


 


We asked author John Seddon to comment on this. His book, Freedom from Command and Control: Rethinking Management for Lean Service (Productivity Press, 2005), features a detailed criticism of tools and tool heads. His response:


 


“I am dismayed at how easily managers are duped into believing this lean thing is a ‘tools’ thing. Even the lean ‘gurus’ tell us Ohno insisted we should never codify method (write tools) but then they go ahead and do just that. Now, perhaps realizing the tools approach was flawed, the gurus are describing the tools thing as an ‘age’ and imploring us to go beyond the ‘tools age.’ They just don’t get it – Lean is a change-the-system thing, not a tools thing. The tool heads will ensure people miss an important opportunity – they will think they have ‘done lean’ if they have ‘done the tools’ and the tragedy is they won’t even have started. Watch out for tools from fools.”


 


Have you run into problems with tool heads? What happened? What did you do about it?


 


Or has a tools approach worked well in your organization? What made it successful?


 


Log into the blog and post a comment with your story. Let’s use the blog to help each other by sharing these experiences.

7 comments:

Ralph Bernstein said...

IMPORTED
3/1/2007 5:36:13 PM Re: Are tool heads undermining your lean initiatives? -1 E0020865

In the beginning we were taught to use a "tool approach" but as we have moved forward in our lean journey we now focus on a kaizen driven approach and when done correctly it will force the use of the right tools to drive the metrics and desired results

Ralph Bernstein said...

IMPORTED
3/1/2007 6:50:39 PM
Re: Are tool heads undermining your lean initiatives?
By: RDF

We're seeing that it even goes beyond a "change-the-system" thing to a "change the way we think," thing. To be successful for the longterm we must transform Kaizen from "what we do" to "who we are." Our current focus is in transforming our organization into a culture of continuous improvement instead of a focus on just using tools as the latest and greatest methodology for change. The road of culture change is slow and tedious but beginning to see signs of life.

Ralph Bernstein said...

IMPORTED
3/2/2007 3:13:49 PM
Re: Are tool heads undermining your lean initiatives?
By: rotorclip

I agree with RDF. The biggest challenge is not so much using the tools, but changing culture to get everyone to see that they have to change the way they think about their jobs and how they regard their work. Despite the successes we have had in our Lean transformation, there are still many employees who cling to "the good old days. "They want to punch in, be given a set amount of work to do and punch out. If they could avoid the meetings, and, ultimately the "thinking" they're asked to do, they would do it.

Indded, it takes time.

Rotor Clip Company"

Ralph Bernstein said...

IMPORTED
3/4/2007 2:40:55 PM
Re: Are tool heads undermining your lean initiatives?
By: dwringel

Tool heads (inside members of an organization) are an inevitable part of any Lean transformation. In many cases they are the early embracers of the change and can be a 'change agents' biggest ally to begin to build momentum. Many of the early wins rest on the shoulders of these tool heads because they see life as a simple set of things to do to get to a result...

Dangerous to an organization are the outsiders coming in who are not skilled with the soft side of Lean or who consciously avoid it to maintain a revenue stream by creating a dependancy on themselves.

Every organization has a wide variety of people motivated by different things including their personal preferences, tendancies, and value systems. Likewise, it takes many different types of people with varied skill sets to have a healthy organization. The Space Shuttle would never have been imagined, designed, built, nor its success finally realized with only one view of what was necessary, possible, important, etc. It took a lot of tool heads and a lot of strategists, dreamers, thinkers, doers, leaders, followers...in the end, it took a common vision and focus with a plan and a timeline and a whole bunch of teamwork. So it is with Lean.

Changing our behaviors is by far more difficult than learning the tools and needs to be a primary focus of any Lean transformation.

However...Don't fear the tool heads! Embrace them for what they can do to help your organization get Lean.

Want to know more about success transforming your culture to Lean?

Contact me @ dwringel@aol.com

Ralph Bernstein said...

IMPORTED
3/12/2007 3:43:11 PM
Re: Are tool heads undermining your lean initiatives?
By: DWarden

We have changed things a lot using the lean tools. We have used the 5S's, kanban, cellular design, standardized work, cycle times, takt times, dance cards, quick changeovers, value stream mapping and process flow mapping. We have made many changes to our processes and systems using lean. What we have not embraced is how lean should be used as an overall management system. The reason I wanted to participate in this subject is because we too have "tool heads" at various levels that can not get past lean as techniques and tools. We as inside consultants must continue to plant the seeds, nurture the ideas and harvest them when they are ready. That takes patience and perseverance. Try reading David Mann's, Creating a Lean Culture and Thomas Jackson's, A Lean Management System. It ties it all together on a daily basis and a long-term basis for continuous improvement. I have a dream that someday we can get past the tools and use lean at the enterprise level as a lean management system.

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