Lean & IT

Forrester Research recently held several “jam sessions” the first of which was one that focused on the topic of creating a leaner IT, and has followed it up with several discussions on lean, declaring, “lean is ‘in’ right now.”  This scares me.  Not because the folks at Forrester are wrong, precisely the opposite.  They are right on in declaring that lean is a mindset and culture.  What scares me is how organizations and consultants will respond to this declaration.

Now, I am a huge proponent of Lean, having been involved with it my entire career, but organizations need to tread carefully when embracing Lean thinking.   Many will start with declaring they are starting a new ‘lean initiative’ and will hold kaizen events, use Value Stream Mapping, send people to training, study the Toyota Production System, and, yes, they will get results (this stuff DOES work).  After a while, however, they will start to stagnate.  The ‘lean initiative’ will start to seem stale, and will eventually wither on the vine, becoming yet another initiative that failed to sustain and meet expectations.

Why do they fail?  Because they did not implement Lean, they implemented the TOOLS of Lean.  Kaizen is a tool, Value Stream Mapping is a tool – in and of themselves, they are not Lean.  Lean is a culture of the continuous pursuit of the elimination of waste in everything the organization does.  Toyota does not care that companies (even competitors) come study their production systems, because they know that by the time the competitor is able to implement what they observed, Toyota will have moved on – that is the way their corporate culture works.  Toyota does not have a ‘Lean initiative.’ Toyota does not ‘do’ Lean, they ‘are’ Lean.  It’s just the way they do business.

Implementing the tools of Lean will get you results, and will help move you toward becoming a Lean organization, but Lean is bigger than the tools.

So, as IT organizations move to embrace Lean thinking, the question becomes, “Are you going to ‘do’, Lean, or are you going to ‘BE’ Lean?”

Glenn Whitfield


IT Budget Cut? An Opportunity Awaits.



“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  So goes the start of Charles Dicken’s  A Tale of Two Cities, and so goes the times in which we currently live.  With the economy a train wreck, the edicts have come down from upon high – cut, cut, cut.  And we’re not talking about the government here, where a cut means your budgeted increase is cut, no, these are real.  If you spent $100 this year, you only get $80 for next year. 


And while this can be an opportunity to get rid of some “dead weight,” the legal department usually has some problems with the obvious, so other rationales are used, none of which ever make sense to the survivors.    There were ten people in the group, and on Monday there are only eight.  The survivors of these slashings inevitably get to hear, “now we all have to work together,” or “dig deeper” or “put in the extra effort.”   I am constantly amazed at how companies execute these orders.


Several years ago as a manager, having survived a 30% reduction at a large manufacturer, I asked my boss, “OK, since we are not getting any tools to make us more efficient, what are we going to stop doing?”  After giving me the death stare for what seemed like forever, he realized it was going to be tough to motivate people already working 12 hour days, 6 days a week to work longer, he simply said, “I don’t know, but you’re right, we have to take a look at it.”  We used it as an opportunity to review our processes, and drastically restructure the department, plus eliminated about 20 reports that were either redundant, or nobody looked at anymore.


So, while times are tight, and you are asked to do more with less, don’t just ask your people to “suck it up.”  Take a look at your processes, look for waste, and ways to improve.  It doesn’t always take new technology.  Often times, you will find that you can use technology you already have in place to help you implement the change.  But you have to look.


There’s an opportunity out there – you just have to look for it!


Let me know your thoughts!