I read the lean stuff with amazement. A recent article on sixsigmaIQ is titled, How to lose friends and alienate staff – a lean sponsor’s guide. This “lean engagement” highlights many of the problems with lean in services.
As most lean efforts go, the focus is on getting “top-down” management support. I have long noted that to improve the system that management has to change too. There is nothing in the lean management engagement that addresses the hierarchy problem that must be tended to improve services. The top-down, command and control, functional separated hierarchy is a huge barrier to improvement.
The lean folks have no human change methodologies in their tool boxes.
The next problem is where they start . . . with the work, inside-out as a process to improve – “The team began work as per the pre-defined schedule, going through the typical due-diligence of comprising value stream walk, detailed process dissection, takt time calculation, etc.” In services, this is wholly the wrong place to begin as systems thinking advocates understanding your organization as a system from the outside-in. In fact, until we understand the system purpose and demands by studying the system, we risk a flawed design of services that creates more waste and sub-optimization.
Further, the use of takt time in service is not applicable. The concept originated in manufacturing where services have a different problem. The tools approach is a form of copying from manufacturing, but service has different problems.
Tools like the seven wastes that came from manufacturing are applied to service settings. If we are looking for the seven wastes and not looking for waste in general we stand to miss a lot in service. I compare it to taking inventory sheet-to-shelf rather than shelf-to-sheet . . . if you are only looking for on what is on the sheet you may miss what is on the shelf.
Services have different problems than manufacturing:
- Greater variety in demands from customers
- Nothing is stored like products and raw materials
- Service happens between the front-line and the customer
- The front-line and the customer are involved in service delivery
With more manufacturing people moving into service we have a forced fit of manufacturing thinking and tools represented by Lean and Six Sigma in to service. The problems are different and so should your approach be different.
Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion! Click on comments below.
Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here. Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at [email protected]. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.
Tripp Babbitt is a columnist (Quality Digest, PSNews and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.Share This:
Tripp agree with your precepts about lean. I was a manager at HMRC when they were applying tools to my service. We had a consultant who would follow people to the printer to see how far they had to walk. My staff were so unhappy. It was farcical when the problem was nothing to do with tidy desks or distance to the printer. The new process just couldn’t cope with the problems or complexities that people phoned-in with. I was really glad to leave and i don’t mention where I used to work these days
don’t want to rain on your parade, but lean thinking can be applied to any activities that follow a proecss. brownfield orgs. over time will change their top down mngmt system as horizontal flow simply won’t support that structure. not something that gets accopmlished overnight.
Interesting blog. Some good some bad…the author says “the lean folks have no human change methodologies in their tool boxes.” Maybe some supposed trained lean consultants don’t, but LEAN MANUFACTURING (TPS) certainly does.
I have learned LEAN IS NOT A SET OF TOOLS (only) BUT RATHER OF WAY OF THINKING. It goes something like this…True lean is like a coin…LSS Thinking – Side 1: HONOR Standards!
Not necessarily writing, publishing, editing or distributing them, but honoring them. In the spirit on the first ISO 9001 mantra, “document what you do, do what you document, and prove it in practice.” Standards are the only sustained foundation for improvement. Automotive entrepreneur, Henry Ford said, “today’s standardization is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based. “If you think of ‘standardization’ as the best you know today, but which is to be improved tomorrow, you get somewhere.”5 And then later, Toyota Production System creator Taiichi Ohno reaffirmed that truth. “Where there is no Standard, there can be no Kaizen (improvement.)” So the first side of the LSS coin is to get serious about your written regulations, procedures and those pesky audits, for they are the foundation of stability.
LSS Thinking – Side 2: HONOR People’s Good ideas!
People want to be in on things, they want to have a ‘say.’ Allow your workers to really contribute. Here’s the fun part. Workers are less skeptical of management when they know their business culture honors standards. In this environment, workers are more likely to give input, because they know if their opinions are right, backed by data, the organization’s culture is mature enough to implement their good ideas. This is a tremendous motivating factor. Collaboration and empowerment are true enablers for improvement and the second side of LSS.
LSS Thinking – Side 3/Edge: HONOR the Customer!
The only side that connects both sides to a coin is the edge. As in the customer should be the central reason for all your standards and improvement efforts. They should touch all aspects of your business plan and execution.
Sides 2 and 3 are all about the human chain…right?
An interesting view.
The problem is this sounds more like coercion and rationalization than a normative approach to change thinking. It is one of the problems with real, fake or true lean.
Ohno had some good principles many applied well to manufacturing, but service has different problems.
Changing management thinking is 95% of the problem if this is not addressed we are missing the point.
From W. Edwards Deming:
“I ask people in management what proportion of this problem arises from your production worker. And the answer is always: All of it! That’s absolutely wrong. There’s nobody that comes out of a School of Business that knows what management is, or what its deficiencies are. There’s no one coming out of a School of Business that ever heard of the answers that I’m giving your questions—or probably even thought of the questions.”
With the difference approach to the services field, why not?
Manufacturing is different than service. Would you use rules for baseball in football?