Well, I'd like to introduce you to a a friend of ours, Agile/Scrum. If you have a few minutes, check out an article titled "Takeuchi and Nonaka: The Roots of Scrum". The article was written by Jeff Sutherland in October of 2011, and I think it summarizes very nicely the difference between American "lean" and what Taiichi Ohno and Toyota actually did......Scrum. "Lean" is about tools and mapping, 3 day special events and colorful floors, belts and cards. Scrum is about autonomous teams, leveraging diversity of people, gaining agreement and a laser-like focus on the customer and hat they want. It is really about an entirely different way of leading.
From the article: "What Takeuchi and Nonaka saw at Toyota, Honda, Canon, Fuji-Xerox, 3M, HP and other high performing organizations is Scrum project management, which means to them teams that are autonomous, motivated by trascendent purpose, and engaged in cross learning. Short iterations combined with these team dynamics facilitate a knowledge generation cycle that leads to innovation, faster time to market, and higher quality."
This paragraph summarizes EXACTLY what I saw happen first hand in my own company when I shifted from LEAN (events and tools) to A3. We went from a few events a year to almost 300 A3 projects closed in one year by 75 people. We just got smarter, and I didn't feel like I was solving the same problems over and over.
Computer programming and software development is a high stakes business. The cost of defects is catastrophic. The customer has very little patience for bugs. By focusing on the TPS concepts of nemawashi (proceed slowly, consider many options, gain agreement, then implement rapidly), respect for people and poka yoke, customers get what they want faster than they could have imagined. Interestingly enough, I have witnessed first hand the application of this thinking when people who use Agile/Scrum are asked to participate on A3 teams led by people in customer service, engineering, the shop floor, in purchasing or accounting. Agile/Scrum makes for incredibly good A3 players.
All this time, I thought I was teaching people how to do A3. I am actually teaching scrummage! The A3 is just the tool to help people do the DMAIC in order.