Sunday, September 13, 2015

LEAN: Steer Clear of Whoville

Two of the "4 Ps" are "the right process will produce the right result", and "Continuously develop your people and partners". If a particular process doesn't give a good result every time, the PROCESS needs to be changed. Notice I didn't say the people people need to be changed. When you do root cause analysis, do "5 Why" NOT "5 Who". Or, put another way, "if the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught. Stay away from Whoville.

If you want to truly embrace lean thinking and if lean is your business strategy, then there are two simple irrefutable laws that you must believe from the bottom of your heart:


Nobody gets out of their car in the morning intent on making rework, scrap and mistakes. People are smart and people care, they just haven't been trained well enough, or the process is just not mistake-proof enough. That has to be our core belief. It is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to jump to the conclusion that "people around here just don't care", or "if I told them once, I told them a hundred times!"  Trust me, they do care, and they are smart. And if not, WHO was the knucklehead that hired and developed them?

As leaders, supervisors, foremen, etc., we generally don't do "value-added work." (work that your customer will actually pay for).  Not many customers will accept a line item on your invoice called "supervision fee". As lean thinkers, the people who do value-added work should be considered our CUSTOMERS. If we make these customers happy, the people who pay us will be happy too. Also, one important component of the Toyota Production System pillar "respect for people" is to "not impose wishful thinking on our customer". Broken processes can be thought of as wishful thinking. I believe that one of the reasons Taiichi Ohno sometimes came off as so cranky was his frustration for managers allowing people to work processes chock full of the 8 wastes......defects (& the resultant rework or scrap), overproduction (more than is needed right now), waiting, non-essential processing, transport (moving stuff), inventory, motion (people moving unnecessarily) and un-used employee brainpower. 

A3 thinking is really about going after those two Ps. Process improvements are led by the experts.....the people who do the work. In the process of leading A3, you are continuously developing leaders. People capable of pulling a team together, leveraging diversity, doing root cause analysis,  gaining agreeing on countermeasures and presenting their learning to their peers. The focus of A3 teams is the process, not singling out or finding fault in the people who do the work. When we look at processes, we are trained to "watch the baton, not the runners".

The right process will produce the right result, and continuously develop your people and partners.....stay out of Whoville.


  1. Bill, this is so spot on. Thanks

  2. Shared this with our group here. Not quite certain how many times I have used this throughout this past week.....I think I could provide a tune and turn it into a song. I heard the other day that one of our managers actually opened a corrective action meeting this week reading this as an intro. Thanks again

  3. Thank you so much Ken for taking the time to read it and use it!!!! Best regards always my friend