A recent white paper has the LEI (Lean Enterprise Institute) folks admitting that only 2% of lean programs succeed. Yet, with the masses of people that make up the lean community you would think that number was 98% of lean programs succeeding. I was surprised that the number of failures wasn’t higher than 98%.
This begs the question of why the hype for a fad with such a high failure rate? Shouldn’t it go the way of other fads that we at least had fun with like the Yo-Yo, Klackers and yes . . . even disco.
Jeff Liker and Mike Rother now have a new Japanese term for us to learn – Kata. Surely an attempt to shore up the missing element of lean called thinking. Why is it always a new Japanese word?
The thinking though is still lost on process improvement, routines and standardization. Not to leave out “target conditions” that Liker and Rother claim that a “clear path” to the target makes it OK to use results management and extrinsic motivators vs. those that have an unclear path need an iterative approach devoid of results and extrinsic motivation. W. Edwards Deming must be looking down and shaking his head with such foolishness.
The truth is lean doesn’t work because it is based on copying – something Dr. Deming warned us about many times. We can not copy Toyota or the Japanese. Organizations and governments require more than copying to get ahead or they will always be behind . . . You can’t catch up copying it requires new and better thinking.
We have our own fundamental thinking problem is the US. Addressing this requires understanding our industrialized, mass-production design of work and how it works against improvement. In service, manufacturing has different problems and perpetuating poor thinking by a fad that succeeds 2% or less is certainly the wrong direction.
When the chips are down . . . the buffalo move on. It’s time to move on to better thinking.
Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public). His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work. Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected]. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.Share This:
Better thinking would be not writing the same blog posts over and over again, Mr. Tripp Babbitt.
I didn’t write the percentages, just re-quoting them. BTW, I know this isn’t your real name and have a pretty good idea who you are Dallas, Texas. Gee, I wonder who?
Admittedly, the success rate for lean is low. But there are number of reasons for that. I am sure you don’t care since this post is very opinionated. I wonder what other improvement methodology has more success than Lean Thinking.
Seriously, 98% failure rate doesn’t get your attention! There has to be a problem here. I could almost accept 50/50, but 98%. If the aim is to improve manufacturing or service there has to be some soul-searching. Mario Mendoza batted 200 and this is the line of mediocrity in baseball.
We have the largest economy in the US, but this is a call to adjust. Read: The planning for Change – Benne and Chin. Are you ready to listen?
Obtaining profound knowledge is hard, flashing multi colored belts is easy. Quality improvement without guaranteed areas of profit is chancy, especially for those whose quarterly bonuses are tied to short term improvement (to hell with the long term). It’s much easier to complete a project which guarantys success, because a cause or person to blame for the failure is easier than trusting the improved quality to provide unexpected packets of success. Everybody wants the crystal ball, that’s why so many of them are sold.
I am looking for the LEI article you mention at the beginning of your post, as I remember reading it and finding it interesting but cannot find it again.
Could you post the link to it please?
The above link will get you there. Thanks for pointing it out.
I’m not surprised to hear that the success rate of Lean is low. That has been common knowledge for some time. Most change efforts fail. Depending on who you site it has a success rate of no higher than 30%.
What I’m surprised about is the total lack of focus on why Lean fails. It is not about copying the tools, but a total lack of concern for the environment in which the tools are rolled out.
Why do you think Toyota opened their doors time after time? They would say it was not what people saw, but what they couldn’t see.
Most companies have immediate gratification mentality and to tell a company that it is a journey and the results take time, will fall on deaf ears.
The tools are easy, creating the culture where the tools can be successful is the real challenge.
The problem is – in part – about copying tools. Because the thinking you allude to is skipped in favor of tools it is a short cut. Copying always leaves you behind the organization you are copying.
Methods that work on thinking exist and improvement is rapid when thinking is changed. Great quote from Dr. Lloyd Nelson:
“Statistical thinking and methods don’t produce a latent image on photographic film. The searchers (visitors to Japanese manufacturing) looked in the wrong place and used the wrong technique – what better guarantee of failure? And all this was carried out with genuine cooperation of the Japanese. However, after you have been using a technique (borrowed from your guests!) for some 30 years, it would hardly occur to you to mention it as a critical ingredient. It might to the Oriental way of thinking, be impolite to say so.”