Thoughts of a Lean Sensei
By Chris Cooper

Posted by Chris Cooper on August 4th, 2015 in Lean  ⟩  0 comments

I have recently been pondering the effectiveness of SMART objectives — the idea that for any goal to be meaningful it needs to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

This theory is most often credited to Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management. While I don't presume to disparage the teachings of such a heavyweight thinker, I believe this concept is due a critique in light of what we know about Lean.

Posted by Chris Cooper on July 29th, 2015 in Kanban Lean  ⟩  0 comments

Kanban is an inventory control system used in Just-in-Time production. It was developed by Taichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, which evolved to become what we know today as Lean.

I recently watched an old film about Ohno that illuminated the birth of the Kanban concept and its significance to Just-in-Time manufacturing. As with many of history’s great innovations, it began with an accident — in this case, a missed train.

Posted by Chris Cooper on May 1st, 2015 in Lean  ⟩  0 comments

Lean quickly teaches us the art of spotting waste and helping in its removal. For many of us, our first years in Lean are spent eliminating waste with an almost religious zeal, and we become 'waste warriors' and do battle with the eight wastes wearing our 'waste goggles' so we can see it hiding. The impact, of course, is huge, and soon value is flowing, responsiveness to customers is up, and quality is soaring because of all the steps that have been removed. The other side of the equation, the creation or renewal of value, however, takes longer to register in the game plan of a Lean transformation. More than likely, reducing lead times and increasing quality is initially very good for the organization. Goods get supplied quicker, patients have easier and quicker access to treatment, and everyone's morale goes up when quality improves. The issue of 'value-up' becomes more serious when the removal of waste continues, and customers get used to quick, high quality service. Equally, as more and more people are liberated from wasteful steps inside the organization, we have to find something useful for them to do. If we don't, not many will want to continue the battle against waste. In the short to medium term there is nothing better than to have the people freed up by improvement provide extra horsepower to the Lean transformation, but soon we have to face the fundamental need for growth in order to find gainful and continuing employment.

Posted by Chris Cooper on May 1st, 2015 in Lean  ⟩  0 comments

When I wrote the book The Little Book of Lean, I presented the evolution of human work process. The model followed a time-based curve proposing that quality, productivity, and economic wellbeing had increased with the adoption of successive types of work. The first type is the Artisan, i.e. working as an individual to one's own definition of good quality and good process, and it can be hit or miss. Without large-scale patronage or genius status, it is difficult to make a living. The next stage is craft-based working, where groups of workers use common agreements on designs, methods, training, and tools to produce things of higher value than artisan products.

Posted by Chris Cooper on May 1st, 2014 in Lean Big Data  ⟩  0 comments

The value stream map is one of the most strategic of the Lean tools, its purpose being to clearly locate the biggest and best opportunities for improvement. It progressively re-orientates the organization design to be better at serving customers or patients. The basic idea at the heart of the value stream is identifying the work that adds value to the task at hand, and the work that doesn't. This sounds easy, but culturally this is one of the hardest things to achieve, as there are emotions wrapped up in our work. The reality is, once you truly take the eyes of the customer you see a far bigger picture than those inside the process ever see.

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