LMJ: “Think Flow: Why Lean Assessments Don’t Work”

Kate Mackle, founder of  Thinkflow Limited, talks about  the importance of understanding the problems of a company  before assessment can even hope to represent a useful to tool to measure how well the business is doing.

Imagine the scene. You enter the doctor’s consulting room. “What seems to be the trouble?” he says.  You answer: “Well, I’ve been feeling very listless. Not as energetic as I usually am. And I’ve had one or two dizzy spells.”  He asks: “How long have you been taking one aspirin a day?”; “how many marathons have you run in the last 5 years?”; “When do you aspire to move from Valium to Prozac?” … [meta func=”pdf” link_download=”LMJ_20120515″]

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One Comment

  1. Joe, an excellent article you found! Great job Kate in describing an important issue I see in many companies! Of course ‘to measure = to know’, so we want/need to know where we are now and what would be the next step in our lean journeys, but there is indeed something wrong with the basic principle on which these Lean assessments are developed.

    I believe an important root cause of this problem is the fact that people still do not see Lean as a strategy (for more effectively reaching your business objectives) but rather as a set of tools.
    The typical lean assessments Kate is talking about just measure the usage of tools, and sometimes just the usage and not even how effectively they are being used: ‘Do you do value stream mapping?’ ‘Yes ! there is a nice drawing hanging on the wall’ (but what did VSM bring you?) ‘Do you have kanbans in place?’ ‘Yes ! (but is Kanban the most appropriate connection between two processes here? Why not one piece flow?; and, as a kanban supermarket is still ‘waste with a card on it’, how where the supermarket levels determined, and when was the last time they were reviewed?)
    Now, of course as a lean practitioner we must know the tool box. And the more tools we know, the better. Otherwise this saying applies: ‘if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail’. But, why would we take tool usage as a measure of Lean ?
    In my teachings on lean, I often use the analogy with a maintenance technician. This person has a toolbox with a set of (universal) tools. depending on the issue he is facing he will select the right tools for each job. It seems so obvious that we are NOT measuring the effectiveness of this maintenance guy by assessing whether he used his wrenches 6,7,8,9,10,11,12, etc. his hammer, his screw driver, pliers, Allen keys 6,7,8,9,10,11….. for each job. But apparently when it comes to assessing our lean journey, this is the basic principle all these Lean assessments are built on….. Shouldn’t we rather measure how we are deploying Lean as a ‘strategy’?

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