Saving Money vs Making Money

Recently, I have had many discussions with colleagues about whether or not the primary purpose of Lean is to eliminate waste or to increase value.  I’m a proponent of the latter, where Lean is to increase value with respect for people.  Yes, in order to increase value, waste must be removed from the system, to which, my colleague says, “See, it comes down to eliminating waste.  Besides, that’s easier to understand.” Continue reading

Design Thinking and The Lean Start Up

Editors note: While some may consider Design Thinking and the Lean Start Up methodology competing, in my view they compliment each other quite well.  This post is my view on how they can be integrated to help organizations succeed.

The importance of design cannot be understated.  It is a premise that most readily accept, especially when it comes to product design; but when we take an honest assessment of the results of our projects (or initiatives), in retrospect, many of our designs – system designs – are poor.  Problems and opportunities are identified, and a solution is visualized, but at the end of the day, the vision rarely materializes as originally seen.

Design Thinking incorporating the Lean Start Up can help.

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An Overly Simplistic View of PI

Process Identification -> Process Improvement -> Performance Improvement -> Performance Excellence -> Operational Excellence

The journey of Continuous Improvement is long, arduous, and best of all, never-ending.  One could say that is the whole nature of the word “continuous”.  This road does, however, have several checkpoints.  With that said, here we’ll provide an overview of the entire journey, but spend more time at the beginning – because that’s where it all starts!

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The Importance of Proper Definition

The definition of definition is “a statement expressing the essential nature of something.” At least that’s one way Webster defines the word.  But why is a definition so important?  Because definitions enable us to have a common understanding of a word or subject; they allow us to all be on the same page when discussing or reading about an issue.  And while we tend to make sure we properly define our words and phrases so that all understand, how well do we do that with our projects, programs or initiatives? Continue reading

New Thinking in Higher Education

The recession has forced many institutions of higher learning to rethink their business models to not only reduce costs, but also reshape themselves to react to the rapidly changing enrollment patterns.  According to National Center for Education Statistics data, over a ten year period from 1998 to 2008, enrollment at two-year public colleges grew 32 percent, while enrollment at four-year public institutions increased by 19 percent, and by 17 percent at four-year private institutions.  The recession of the past two years has only reinforced this trend as unemployment rates have hovered near 10% and people are seeking economical options to increase their skill set. This creates issues for both two-year and four-year institutions. Continue reading

The Myth of Productivity Cost Savings

We’re well into the NCAA’s March Madness and according to the outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, the first week of this year’s tournament will cost firms $1.8 BILLION in “unproductive wages.”  Really? Call me a non-believer, but I don’t buy it.  CEO John Challenger refutes my disbelief by saying, “Those who insist there will be no impact are kidding themselves. It might be a slight drop in output or it could be slow Internet connections as bandwidth is sapped by employees watching streaming feeds of the games.”

I have not looked at the details of the study, for instance to see if they factored in the increases in productivity at the local watering holes, and I’m not saying there is no impact, but to make such a claim is akin to fear mongering.  Do we really think that companies lost $1.8 billion in revenue last weekend solely due to the NCAA tournament?  This is where the great myth of productivity cost savings lies. Continue reading

The Politics of Continuous Improvement

The other day I came across a post on LinkedIn that stated, “Lean Crushing Six Sigma as the New Dominant Force in Corporate Continuous Improvement.”  It pointed to a survey done by the Avery Point Group which found that Lean talent demand was outpacing Six Sigma talent demand.  I was also enlightened about the animosity that appears to exist between the systems thinking advocates of John Seddon and the lean advocates of the Lean Enterprise Institute.

All of this has me thinking – when did we start the competition about which improvement methodology is the best?  Why do we want to waste our time arguing over which methodology is the best (sometimes to an all too personal level)?  Isn’t the purpose of these approaches to establish an on-going system of Continuous Improvement?  Whether it’s Lean, Six Sigma, Systems Thinking, Theory of Constraints, or something else – if the organization can establish a continuous improvement mindset, does the methodology used really matter? Continue reading