1.28.2008

Is Lean a religion?

I've seen quite a few discussion forum posts on the Lean debate being compared to a debate on religion. Either you are a believer or you are not is one argument. The other typical argument is that there is common ground in the middle somewhere. A common criticism of this argument is that lean could be advanced much more quickly and effectively if the zealots would stop viewing lean as a religion. My take is this:

It sounds (and in a way it is) a religious argument because as many people will realize about lean, over time we are talking about a philosophy in leading an organization.

Encarta Dictionary: Philosophy

1) school of thought - a particular system of thought or doctrine

2) guiding or underlying principles - a set of basic principles or concepts underlying a particular sphere of knowledge

3) set of beliefs or aims - a precept, or set of precepts, beliefs, principles, or aims, underlying a person's practice or conduct.
There are many similarities between traditional manufacturing and lean manufacturing: each requires production control, sales and marketing, engineering, supervision, human resources and accounting. But the philosophy of HOW to do this while respecting people is drastically different; if not polar opposites. For this reason alone, it is not unreasonable to expect severe differences of opinion in how to run business. Because we hang on to our old habits, we fail at understanding the lean philosophy, and this is due to the cultural behaviors so prevalent in the discipline of U.S. management. When we do not understand, we will not try; when we do not try, we will not do it; when we do not do it, we will not understand. In lean, the concept of 'learning by doing' and experiential learning is so highly valued in the gemba.
A couple of the underlying disciplines in Lean/TPS are production engineering and manufacturing engineering. These two disciplines heavily influence the philosophy of TPS. In my experience, I can think of many examples where a manager of a department or company on the "lean journey" either:

a) doesn't understand any of these disciplines (or those which are related)

b) holds the traditional belief of these disciplines that work standards exist to enable command and control management, in other words - hold people accountable (U.S. speak for disciplining them when they do something wrong or make a mistake.)

In other words, in order for lean to be successful, it must be part of how a person conducts themselves as a manager. Traditional manufacturing in terms of production/manufacturing/industrial engineering does not hold the concept of employee involvement in high regard. This is a fundamentally fatal flaw of traditional western management yet is a core philosophical point that underlies lean management, or TPS.

Is my assessment far off the mark?

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2 Comments:

At July 29, 2015 at 6:48 AM , Blogger John Robert said...

It's had been a very good experience to read your this blog about Lean religion, thanks for sharing this.

 
At August 22, 2016 at 1:49 AM , Blogger Naviya Nair said...

I have read your blog its very attractive and impressive. I like it your blog.
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