Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Doing Lean for the right reason

I had an interesting conversation last night with someone who had been involved with a lean 'project' at a previous employer.  His thoughts on lean were not positive. 
The company he had worked for had recruited a new CEO.  The CEO said that 'Lean' was the way forward and that that was what the company was going to do.  What instead my conversation partner had seen was a company were the books were being manipulated to sell the company at as much of a profit as possible.  And lean was just a tool to help make that happen.  Kanbans were used to drive down inventory costs and JIT to further reduce WIP.  Both improved cash flow and I suspect help improve margins.  What he did not talk about was how Lean had made anyone's work better, improved customer service or quality.  No surprise that Lean was not viewed positively.  He now works at Westjet a company that put incredible effort into engaging its employees to achieve their potential and into reducing operational costs.

As with any tool it can be used well or badly.  This time Lean was used as cheap trick.

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