What's the Engine? What's the Gas?
I had an odd word picture clarify in my head over the weekend.
We so often in get interested in the tools of Lean. Kanban cards. Pull systems. Value Stream maps. I sitting here right now, for example, finally clicking on producing an X-chart, linking lower level goals to higher level activities. It is making sense. Produces a cool tool to communicate with.
And will this get waste-free manufacturing rolling?
Not by itself.
Enter my word picture.
The tools are the engine. The "stuff," the mechanics, the tangible things you can see and feel. The items that are fairly easy to observe, copy and talk about to others. The engine looks good sitting there. Especially when you can add chrome.
The gas, on the other hand, is the fuel that makes the engine turn. If the engine won't turn, it is of no more use than a boat anchor, chrome or no chrome. In a Lean system, the gas is the passion, the energy, the fuel that drives productive activity. It flows from a sense of purpose, a sense of rightness, a respectful use of people who use their strengths and support each other.
Driving down the street, I can easily view other people's cars. From it's make or from the sticker on the back, I can often tell just where they bought the car as well. If the car is moving, I can make the assumption it has fuel. But I never can see the gasoline. Much less can I even hazard a guess as to where the owner bought the gas. It is invisible to me, though I can see its effect.
The Lesson? I have to put a whole lot of energy into the fuel. The engine needs maintenance, even some polish. But it is the gas that makes the engine go.