Most Misleading Lean Headline of the Year Award Goes to...

"Why Continuous Improvement May Need to be Discontinued" at Forbes.com. The title link will take you to the Forbes article posted Wednesday afternoon...I opened this article thinking I'd read, "stop doing lean", while wondering how a person could possibly suggest such a thing.  It seemed perhaps a fresh perspective had found a voice?

Nope, not fresh at all. According to the article:

- Japanese companies have been losing money for decades for two basic reasons: a) cheap labor and b) quality parity. So, Japan copied TWI and subsequently kicked our automotive asses. Now, they are copying the excuses we used while getting our asses kicked. Maybe they will pull off another economic miracle? No, in fact, this phenomenon has spread to U.S. companies...continuous improvement is so rigid now that it is stifling innovation.

- The author almost makes you think he is going to justify the title suggestion to stop doing continuous improvement, but then does the exact opposite: no, despite the killing off of innovation, we shouldn't stop doing lean.

- No, rather than deliver on the promise his article title teased me with, I'm subjected to sage lean wisdom from somebody who quotes asset managers on continuous improvement on a macro scale while simultaneously blaming Southeast Asian labor and Detroit Quality and why 3M hasn't invented another Post-It. Here are his important reasons for you to keep doing lean, just as long as you do it this way, because continuous improvement just doesn't work in Japan, 3M, Motorola, GM or GE anymore...

1) don't discourage creativity by applying a one size fits all continuous improvement approach, remember - that kills innovation!

2) here is a new one for you in case you haven't got it: "question whether processes are improved, eliminated or disrupted." Yes, that is a direct quote. Unfortunately, the author doesn't know that the Japanese kicked our butts using that quote from TWI Job Methods. His advice is that people often get wrapped up in improving things when they could be eliminated. Perhaps if a leader was coaching them, rather than playing a shell game, people would get things done in a thoughtful way.

3) One more gem for you, "assess the impact on company culture." Another great piece of advice. Let me add one, put this slogan up on the cafeteria wall. That will really convince people you are thinking about them.

Golly, I wish I had known all of this years ago! How could all of us little people have been so blind! It's true, things like bailing out failing organizations, distorted anti-productivity financial incentives, crony statist capitalism, reckless spending and just generally immoral financial behavior that happens on an hourly basis in our country had nothing to do with the demise of our economy. Thanks for overlooking all of those things, it really is so stupid to think that those things unimportant things are designed to extract wealth from those that have it?! God, I'm so naive! No, those financial mechanisms are just externalities caught between the far more destructive onslaught of malignant-creativity-killing-kaizen-events,  our evil leaders practicing soul-crushing empowerment methods and misguided, ignorant and narrow minded improvement teams made up of brothers, sisters, cousins, accountants, technicians, engineers, machinists, laborers, clerks, supervisors, mothers, fathers and neighbors. They should all read this and check their damn inbred assumptions. I, for one, thank you for setting me straight.


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