Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Beware the Assumptions when Conflict Arises

Thanks to my friend Frank Patrick, I recently began following Jeff Angus' excellent blog Management by Baseball. Those of you who know me will immediately recognize it's appeal; two of my favorite subjects, linked closely together!

Thus, I was very surprised and disturbed to read the September 22 post in which Jeff blasts any manager who believes that it is possible for an organization to achieve "more with less." He has some pretty inflammatory language there, ranging from one's disease status to political beliefs. And then linked all of this, by example, to Nomar Garciaparra, the great shortstop of the Boston Red Sox!!

Jeff is an excellent writer; the piece was pretty disturbing; there was conflict. When I see conflict, I immediately start to look for assumptions, knowing that it is usually an assumption, stated or unstated, that gives rise to the conflict. I found it and I think it is insightful for those of us learning about lean.

The assumption Jeff made is that any organization which attempts to do more with less will do so by forcing its existing staff to do all the things the company used to do before, but with fewer people. This drives multitasking, which drives up stress and drives down productivity. If this assumption was true, I would agree fully with Jeff.

In a lean organization, however, one is continuously looking at doing only value-adding steps. All of our companies have tons of waste which the customer does not demand: rework, poor quality, extra movement and transportation. So, when we get rid of these, we stop doing activities and change nothing for the end user.

Can you get more with less? Yes. But only by applying the correct tools. And assumptions. Which is what makes the Lean paradigm so powerful.

I hope this is helpful. Could it even help the Cubs pull out the NL Central this week? Let's hope so. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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