Friday, November 24, 2006

Down with Philosophy

Down with the Philosophy

I wrote yesterday about how critical it is for me to know and practice a consistent philosophy of Lean. And today I write about how I can’t spend all my time thinking about the philosophy.

After my lunch last Wednesday with Kevin, I got back to work and did my daily walkthrough of our production areas. Within 5 seconds of entering one set of workstations, three associates simultaneously pointed their fingers at me and said “There he is. Get over here!” I wondered what I had done; their commanad allowed no option.

Turned out a persistent production problem was continuing, despite a change we had made the previous week. The group was frustrated and quickly vented to me.

“So, let’s change the setting again,” I said after hearing their observations. The chatter suddenly stopped; “Change it again? We just changed it.” “Yeah, but that change isn’t working,” I replied. “You just gave me solid data as proof. It seems to me our earlier change didn’t go far enough.”

We did some quick calculations, there at the work station, and estimated how much farther we had to change the setting to improve yield. The four of us agreed it seemed reasonable. I took on the task of doing the necessary paperwork. They agreed to do it when we returned from Thanksgiving holidays. We all agreed on the outcome metric that would tell us if the change was effective or not.

The entire discussion took maybe three minutes. No meetings. No task forces. No donuts. There was intensity. There was data. There was passion. There was honest speaking and listening. There were clear, verifiable promises.

In those three minutes, I contemplated pointing out to this group the philosophical underpinnings of what was going on. It happened in the workplace, in gemba. It was driven by data. It valued the ideas of those working with the product. It happened quickly. Indeed, I thought about all these things.

But I didn’t make any of those statements.

No customer buys a product from us because we are attempting to implement a Lean system. No distributor gets excited about our mistake-proofing systems. No end user cares that we make small changes, driven by associates.

They buy our product because it is available. They buy it because it meets their specifications. They buy it because it works. They buy it because it delivers financial value.

If I spend all my time thinking about Lean philosophy, I’ll never get the work done to implement Lean. And it is in these actions that Lean happens.

Long live the Philosophy. Down with the Philosophy.

1 comment:

Mike Gardner said...

Great stuff, Joe!