Sunday, November 03, 2002

Flow meets Batch in New York City

Another way we tend to Batch, rather than Flow, is in how we plan any big project. We want to do the plan, and then execute it. One time to plan, then we act as if it must go according to plan. "Plan your work, work your plan."

This is especially evident in construction projects. For a very good description of a Lean approach to Project Management, click the button "Reforming Project Management" on the left. My friend, Hal Macomber, hosts this fascinating discussion.

This came up in a conversation yesterday with a very good friend who lives and does medical research in New York City. An $8M expansion of his research lab has just broken ground (actually, it broke asphalt...he works in a densely populated part of Brooklyn...) next to his current lab. "We'll be dusty and messed up for years," was his comment.

Don and I have discussed Lean many times, so he wasn't surprised that I had some Lean comments about the grunge he would have to walk around to and from work for the near future. I focused on how one can get Flow in such a big project and how there were tools to deal with the fact that the future is both uncertain and unknowable. Don has a PhD, so is no dummy and saw the appeal.

As the discussion wound down, Don paused reflectively and said "Joe, there is nobody in New York City that has ever heard of such a simple way to run a project."

Well, I suspect someone in NYC has heard of Lean, yet his comment reflects reality...Batch is all around us in many ways. Flow is far less visible. It takes new eyes, a new way of seeing, a new way of thinking, a new paradigm to see flow.

Try this experiment today...find three places where you see batch. Perhaps a long stretch of highway construction blockage with only one small stretch actually having work done. Then, if you can, try to identify one place where there is flow. One hint: have lunch at a Wendys.

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