Think in Reverse

I've always said that thinking lean is like thinking in reverse. Here are three common lean examples:

  1. Pull systems are a great example. Instead of guessing how much will be consumed, I only make what has been consumed.

  2. With lot sizes, it is the economic lot size formula that drives large lot sizes. In lean thinking, we know that small lot size production employs literally single minute changeover will eradicate the benefits of EOQ. It is often called the EOQ blind spot, which gives us a hint that it requires a different way of thinking to embrace SMED principles.

  3. When trying to coach people in improvements, it is tempting to ask somebody a very basic question, "what will happen if you do this?" Sometimes a better question is, "what will happen if you don't do this?" Reverse thinking can open your mind to all sorts of possibilities.

  4. When looking at quality inspection, most quality control programs have inspection at the end of the process, lean thinking says: "what effects will inspecting near the beginning of the process have?"

Here is a great example from the world of human resources: when someone leaves the company and you have the opportunity to retain them, do you pay them what they want in order to retain that person? The example might be that someone says they are leaving and will make $10,000 more per year. They are a great employee...do you try and convince them to stay by matching or exceeding their new employment offer? Tough questions...not easy answers.

It is not necessary to summarize the management techniques that thousands of people employ in this scenario...suffice it to say that it is a major problem and area specialty for thousands of HR professionals today...the short answer to this scenario is that "it depends."

One online footwear company has thought about this question using reverse thinking, or what leansters would call lean thinking.

In summary, here is what Zappo's has codified: after one week of employement, you are offered $1,000 to quit. You heard it right. The precise, polar opposite of what many of us think when faced with retention problems is exactly what Zappo's has made policy. Here is the full article link. Enjoy!



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