By Jon Miller | Post Date: November 21, 2007 12:23 AM | Comments: 9
There is a very long and insightful interview with Jim Womack available at the IndustryWeek online magazine titled Thought Leaders -- Lean On Me (Full Transcript). At over 7,000 words the discussion ranges from a history Womack and Jones' discovery of what Lean was to their comparison of Japanese automotive companies to the future of manufacturing in China to the shift in attention from Lean tools to Lean management, and even an answer to the inevitable "after Lean has been applied to service, what's next?" question.
A Jim Womack quote that caught my attention was:
We've got now a nation full of kaizen consultants doing kaizen, and almost all of that kaizen would be unnecessary if the production process had been laid out the right way the first time, which is what Toyota does.
Do we have a nation full of kaizen consultants? Perhaps this is a figure of speech, or Dr. Womack was simply making a point, but I believe there are in fact still far too few people professionally doing or teaching others how to do kaizen in this country.
And I question his thinking here. By the logic that "almost all of that kaizen would be unnecessary" if processes were laid out right the first time, the Toyota way, we would expect very little kaizen at Toyota since it would be "unnecessary." Yet that is not what we observe. Toyota generates a significant amount kaizen activity in the form of QC circle activities, employee suggestions and problem solving A3s, decades after having their processes "laid out the rigtht way."
There are more than a few kaizen consultants whose work is to facilitate "learning by doing" for their clients, rather than to fix poorly designed processes. Just as at Toyota the problem solving process (kaizen) is a means of people development, kaizen consulting is equal parts fixing the thinking the resulted in the poor processes, not just fixing the poor processes.
Perhaps the "nation full of kaizen consultants" Dr. Womack observes is in fact mostly focused on correcting process flows and fixing poor processes, a statement of the quality and depth of kaizen activity he has observed. But kaizen consultants do not stop doing kaizen even if the process was laid out "right the first time." We never stop.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.