Sunday, November 02, 2003

Lean 2003 Conference Report #1

Just got back from a mind-boggling two days at Productivity Inc's Lean 2003 conference. There is a ton I can share...I'll try to deliver it in bite-sized bits.

The Importance of Vision

Some would characterize Lean as a relatively plan-less search for elimination of waste. Certainly Tom Peters' recent book Reimagine creates this view of non-strategic, incremental improvement that never creates anything new, rather only improveing what exists. This criticism is valid in many applications, and usually results in improvements that are too small to have a business impact and/or are not sustainable.

What was crystal clear in many presentations in Nashville was how a longer-term vision and focus was necessary to overcome that. That this focus had to be on constraints and in delivering breakthroughs from the customer's perspective. We saw specific tools and target metrics for three-year planning. The tools themselves were as waste-free as the best running manufacturing cell.

The key? Vision. From the top. Taking a view of business development that uses lean tools to free up cash which then fund further development.

Communicating that Vision

I also saw a combination of written and spoken means to communicate the vision of where a firm is going. Some very simple graphics. Some very simple planning sheets. Plain language. Radically simplified financial statements. Clear targets for staff. Clear rewards for success, shared by all.

Eliminating Fear in an Atmosphere of Rapid Change

A vision is only useful if it our teams hear it. And if fear pervades an organization, nothing is heard. The change required to see productivity increase is nothing short of breathtaking. So much so, it will be hard for many of our folks to absorb. Which is why actions are so critical. Which is why some form of sharing the financial gains is so important. Which is why simple, clear metrics that are inherently fair are so needed.

I'll share more. This is just an overview. And I hope it is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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