Saturday, August 07, 2004

A Corvette Teaches Lean

A Corvette Teaches Lean

On the expected list of Saturday errands today, I had to drive about 7 miles across town to a store. The route took me on a city street that was quite busy this afternoon. I noted, shortly after starting my journey, a really cool looking, 2004 Chevy Corvette in the lane next to me. Fully decked out, throbbing with power. The vanity license plate said simply "SAMSON";I figured the owner must be into muscle.

And we both were stuck in the same traffic.

We were an odd couple, easing ahead and behind of each other in adjacent lanes. Here I was in my 1998 Saturn, all 129,000 miles of ordinary, keeping full pace with this gorgeous work of automotive art. "Samson" had his stereo cranked up, the subwoofer pounding out thumpa-thumpas dwarfing my small radio tuned to the Cubs-Giants pre-game show. "Samson" was one cool dude (though "Delilah" must have decided to stay home for this outing); I'm a manufacturing geek (and hey, my wife stayed home too).

And we both were stuck at the same untimed traffic lights.

And we both got to the same parking lot at the same time.

Why did this strike me? Because I had four conversations in the past two days on the same topic.

On the open road, my pal Samson would blow me away in an instant. In a parking lot, he would get all the oogles. But, today, in getting from point A to point B, we were full equals. Why? Because the system constraints limited our individual capabilities!

The busy traffic, the poorly-timed lights took away any individual advantages or disadvantages. As such, the extra expense of the hot Corvette was of no use compared to my well-depreciated Saturn. Any speed in traversing this route demanded other solutions.

My conversations showed people still trying (hoping? yearning?) to create or buy better "cars" when the limits on their "speed" lay elsewhere. Any lean system that is to have effect on company financials has to look to optimize the system, not just create better components.

And I think we still don't really get this fundamental fact.

I hope this is helpful.

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