Monthly Archives: March 2013

Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

Chad_WaltersToday’s post is from Chad Walters.  Chad is a Lean consultant and owner of Lean Blitz Consulting in Augusta, Georgia, a firm focused on continuous improvement for small businesses and sports organizations. He has run projects for the Atlanta Braves, the Salvation Army, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Eaton Corporation, The Dannon Company, and the South Bend Silver Hawks among other companies. He has been practicing Lean and continuous improvement for over eight years, is a Six Sigma Black Belt certified by the American Society for Quality, and received his MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where he was a member of the Kelley MBA Sports & Entertainment Academy.  You can follow Chad on Twitter @LeanBlitz.

The book Moneyball by Michael Lewis not only lays out the top-to-bottom game strategy employed by the front office of the Oakland Athletics under team general manager Billy Beane in 2001/2002, but it also serves as a demonstration of how major philosophical and operational changes require a leader willing to stay the course during trying times and full alignment of resources to accomplishing the overarching goal.

For those who are unfamiliar, Moneyball was a paradigm-shifting revelation to the way baseball front offices evaluated and valued players – greater focus on specific statistics (on-base percentage) and valuing the concept of “not making outs,” among other things. Not only did it change the way front offices operated, but it also brought the essentially-foreign concept of efficiency to a boys’ game. The Oakland Athletics, in an effort to compete with the big spenders while on a shoestring budget themselves, employed statistical analysis with baseball players to take advantages of inefficiencies in the game. In 2011 Moneyball was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and Jonah Hill as assistant general manager Peter Brand (the name chosen by the writers when the real assistant general manager at the time Paul DePodesta wouldn’t permit his name to be used in the movie). The movie was great, but really only if you read the book first.

Lean practitioners who were also sports fans loved the entire concept of the story – it wasn’t just about doing things differently, but doing things smarter and better and bringing a cerebral approach to the game they loved. It was about change management in the face of adversity, only it happened to be in the industry of baseball.

The Athletics didn’t coin the term “Moneyball” but their overarching goal of maximizing the ratio of team victories to payroll through the use of statistics measuring team efficiency is a great example of hoshin kanri – the entire organization was aligned to the unique operational strategy to achieve this end goal of maximizing team on-field production.

In an industry where “the way it’s always been done” runs rampant moreso than any other due to the very public nature of the business, achieving organizational alignment was tough and the team’s leaders took steps to forcefully (rightly or wrongly) assure its implementation.

How did the Oakland Athletics demonstrate hoshin kanri?

  • Change management started at the top. “How baseball players are evaluated” was the change that occurred with the Athletics. They (like all other major league teams) had almost solely leaned upon scouts to evaluate players based simply on watching the players firsthand, because “that’s the way they had always been doing it.” Billy Beanewanted to change the approach to include statistical analysis, and because he oversaw the team’s scouting departmentand on-field operations it was his call. Contrast that with Peter Brand, who before being hired by Billy was a low-level advisor to then-Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. Peter had no pull in the office, despite possessing superior education and mathematical analysis skills, so he would not have been able to influence such a monumental philosophical change.
  • “Adapt or die.” While this is quite the fatalistic view on change management, it was the philosophy Billy and the Athletics had to adopt. They had a payroll that was less than 1/3 that of the New York Yankees, so the Athletics had to go “bargain hunting” for undervalued players who featured the undervalued talents like high on-base percentages. In order for them to have a chance to compete with teams like the Yankees they had to be smarter with their dollars.
  • “Trust the process.” Billy and Peter believed in this new philosophy, and their faith was certainly tested when the team started the season poorly. They were aware that the successes would take time to arrive, and multiple tweaks to
    the process (and the process users) would occur. For example…
  • The organization’s activities had to be aligned with the overarching goals. The Athletics scouting department (including lead scout Grady Fuson) were fundamentally opposed to the idea of focusing on statistics instead of what they saw from players with their own eyes. The tension between the two philosophies became so heated that (according to the movie) Billy and Grady had an altercation that led to Grady getting fired. (Adapt or die, indeed.) While scary, it is important for all process users to buy into the change.
  • “So what’s our problem?” One of the favorite Lean tools is the “Five Whys.” When we encounter a problem, we should follow up our analysis of the cause by asking “why” five times. Billy did the same thing, continually asking “So what’s our problem?” to get down to the root of the issues.
    “We aren’t winning.”
    “So what’s our problem?”
    “We aren’t scoring enough runs.”
    “So what’s our problem?”
    “We aren’t getting enough guys on base.”
    “So what’s our problem?”
    “We are making too many outs?”
  • The ultimate poka-yoke. Billy and Peter had specifically signed former catcher Scott Hatteberg to play first base (because of his high rate of reaching base as a hitter), yet manager Art Howe refused to play him, instead opting for young first baseman Carlos Pena. Art Howe had not bought into the new philosophy. How could Billy make absolutely sure that Art would start Hatteberg going forward? Just get rid of all other first basemen on the roster! Billy traded Pena to the Detroit Tigers, Hatteberg became the new first baseman, and…
    Belief in the process and persevering can bring great rewards. …the Athletics set a record by winning 20 straight games on their way to winning the American League West division.
  • “The first guy through the wall gets bloody.” Billy was indeed the first guy to break down the wall, but the paradigm shift in all of baseball was on. In fact, the on-field success of the Athletics despite the miniscule payroll was so revolutionary that Billy Beane was offered the role of general manager of the Boston Red Sox (one of those teams with a huge payroll but inability to win the World Series). He turned the job down to stay with the Athletics, but the Red Sox won the World Series two years later with general manager Theo Epstein at the helm, using the same philosophies introduced by Billy and the Athletics.

Moneyball is the ultimate triumphant change management story, and we all aspire to such a heroic chain of events. It required a philosophy, leaders who not only believed in it but stuck with it through difficult times, process users and followers who were in alignment, and a lot of courage to try something new – unlike most traditional companies, the success of the Oakland Athletics is in plain sight for everyone in the world to see.

Advertisements

Guest Post: Tracing the evolution of strategy deployment

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

kw-prof-dec2011-3qtr-tanToday’s post is from Karen Wilhelm.  Karen has inspired me to connect and learn more through blogging.  It has been great communicating with Karen over the last few years.  Her insights are always enlightening.  This is part one of a two part series.  The second part will post on Karen’s blog.

Part One: Japanese manufacturing leaders listen to Dr. Juran

As hoshin kanri — also called policy or strategy deployment — becomes better understood through Matt’s blog series, I thought I’d trace some of its roots, as described in some key publications. As with all things lean, hoshin kanri can mean many things to many people.  Three key figures who brought hoshin kanri to light saw it from different perspectives too.

In 1951, for example, Dr. Joseph Juran gave a talk at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF, 1951) — formerly the Army War College — to engineers involved in procurement of high-precision parts for armaments. Titled “Quality Control and Inspection,” the lecture focused on product quality characteristics and the use of statistical quality control (SQC). He talked about how assuring quality in product design and manufacturing processes instead of inspecting and rejecting parts that did not meet specs. In this particular talk, Juran only fleetingly touched upon cross-functional communication, continuous improvement, and other critical concepts included in hoshin kanri.

As many of you know, around the same time, Dr. Juran (as well as W. Edwards Deming) was speaking to groups of Japanese manufacturers who were more interested in his quality message than those in the U.S. or Europe, Toyota began sending key managers to quality seminars as early as 1949. Along with other seminars, Dr. Juran was asked to hold a special one for the industrial leadership of Japan: 70 presidents of Japanese companies.

Dr_Juran_smallJuran never used the words hoshin kanri, but from the 1950s on, he described an integrated plan for integrating quality into the company’s management system (Juran, 1988). A company taking this path would be developing a quality strategy understood and carried out at every level of the company. Communication and coordination across functional departments would be effective. Upper management would understand and
perform the tasks needed to make the quality strategy take root.

Juran called the highest level of guiding and planning the strategy Total Quality Management (TQM) or sometimes Strategic Quality Management (SQM). Far beyond the control and inspection of product or service quality, these approaches encompass customer demand, competition, and feedback loops. They advocate creating processes to produce high quality products at a reasonable cost. Juran talked about quality deployment as part of the overall strategic plan, mostly with regard to products and their physical characteristics. Although he was sticking to quality deployment, not the deployment of a company’s entire business system, these concepts are hallmarks of hoshin kanri.

Part Two of Tracing the evolution of strategy deployment will be published in Karen
Wilhelm’s Lean Reflections blog.
References

Joseph Juran, Quality Control and Inspection, Publication L51-94, Industrial
College of the Armed Forces. 1951.

Joseph Juran, Juran on Leadership for Quality: An Executive Handbook, The Free
Press, division of Macmillan. 1998.

Takahiro Fujimoto, The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota, Oxford
University Press. 1999.

Guest Post: Hoshin Planning: Clear Business Objectives Help Guide Success

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

blogphotoToday’s post is from Tony Ferraro, on behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). Tony strives to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. His knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. Tony believes in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.

There are many businesses out there proposing new and creative ideas but somehow lack the guidance and direction to make a good product idea a successful reality. What is it that curbs these business ventures? Is it funding? Is it technology? Or is it a true sense of guidance and leadership? In most cases, the unfortunate truth is that a great product idea or truly unique business plot will flounder and fail without a strategic direction and strong force of leadership helping to guide business objectives. One of the ways to meet this need is to implement the principles of Hoshin Kanri or simply Hoshin Planning. Hoshin Planning is a Japanese term that basically means “strategic planning.” This type of planning strives to really involve all employees in the objectives and improvements within the organization. Top levels of management make it a priority to assure that that all employees feel involved and that they are working as one big team towards a common goal. With this mindset there are no winners or losers within the company, it is purely a team effort and everyone participates and is accountable to help in meeting the identified objectives. The need for continuous improvement is also a highly valued component in this type of planning.

Possible Hoshin Objectives

One of the first and most important steps within Hoshin Planning is to identify the areas in need of improvement, and since Hoshin Planning is about setting clear business objectives it is important identify which objectives are most valuable to the livelihood of the business. Some common continuous improvement objectives include: increasing production, improving current market share along with new market sales, reducing raw material costs and also reducing direct and indirect labor costs. The reason this step is so vital is because everything can’t be tackled at once, think of the analogy that the “big rocks” must be taken care of first in order to start focusing on the “little rocks.”

Organizing Objectives for Clear Measurement

Unfortunately, objectives are merely a list of far-fetched desires if they are not organized properly for action. Sure, a group of leaders can set aside some time to devise a list of company objectives and write them neatly upon a fancy sheet of paper. However, without a concrete plan to guide the objectives the objective planning session would be deemed useless, and the paper may even end up getting lost in someone’s briefcase only to stumble upon it again weeks later. Instead, once objectives are identified they need to be taken seriously and should be categorized and organized for efficiency. For example, once a group of leaders has clearly identified the objectives they would like to implement into the business, they could categorize them into four different types such as improvement projects, specific action projects, 3-5 goals, and annual objectives. By doing this, top company leaders as well as employees will be able to visualize the different objectives and goals and really understand the time frames behind them as well. Essentially this sets the stage for developing the approaches needed to help pursue the stated objectives and goals when moving on to the strategy development phase of Hoshin Planning.

Hoshin Planning is really a dynamic and multifaceted form of strategic planning which involves all areas of a business. However, in order to reach optimum effectiveness all staff should be on board and involved. With that said, and in conjunction with the right objectives, Hoshin Planning can be a huge asset to any business looking to improve overall company performance.

Guest Post: A Few Thoughts on Policy Deployment

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

Today’s post is from Justin Tomac.  Justin and I have worked together for the last five years.  My knowledge of strategy deployment has really grown since I have worked with him.  Justin Tomac has been a Lean practitioner a year or two shy of two decades.  His Lean background consists of various deployments with hands-on office, engineering and shop floor transformations with mentoring and training being provided by TBM and Shingijutsu consultants.  A GE certified Six Sigma Black Belt, he has an Industrial Engineering degree from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and an Engineering Management masters from Wichita State University.  If you would like to contact Justin he may be reached at justintomac@yahoo.com

A lot of articles and books have been written about Policy Deployment, with the focus primarily on the high level concept with exhaustive studies on implementation.  Most of us understand conceptually what Policy Deployment is, where it appears to break down is during the implementation and sustainment.  As you may know, sustainment is a key indicator of how well a concept is understood and implemented by an organization.

Below are a few key characteristics of what a Sustained Policy Deployment look like:

1)      Organic and Living.  Policy Deployment should not be a one and done planning and execution exercise.  Monthly reviews with Quarterly or Semi-Annual Adjustments highlight an active Policy Deployment. The health of these Reviews or Adjustments can be determined by How meaningful the actions and results are.

2)      Influences the Behavior and the Culture.  A robust Policy Deployment process exists to solve the various issues related to horizontal and vertical alignment of objectives, goals and priorities for a Company, Division or Department.  What the boss measures and deems important only lasts as long as the Culture allows.  Organizations that struggle with accountability, communicating (vertically and/or horizontally) strategies or tactics, simplification, etc., have Cultural issues.  I heard a saying, “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”, why not flip this and make Culture the main dish for the morning meal?

3)      A flexible, structured Process (not a fill-in the blank exercise).  I find it interesting that when Policy Deployment is brought up, out fly the different templates, forms, etc.  In the end, does the form or template set the Strategies or drive the priorities?  Policy Deployment should be a process that examines the business top down and sideways, irregardless of what form or template is used.  In the long run, it is what your Culture will allow or likes that will dictate what your Policy Deployment looks like.

Based upon your experiences would you agree and/or add to these?  What say you?

An Overview of Strategy Deployment

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.  I am really excited for this week’s series.  All the posts are great.  Enjoy!

Almost every company will say they have a strategy.  While they may have a great strategy, most companies miss out on deploying that strategy throughout their organization.

Strategy deployment is a key concept that most companies don’t execute well.  Typically, a communication goes out stating  the strategy of the company or it may even be communicated at a large town hall.  This is great, but it is only a single step in the strategy deployment process.

A great strategy deployment process starts at the top with clearly articulated goals for the company.  The executives involve senior management in the process.  They discuss what the goals should be across all parts of the organization and how their areas can help achieve those goals.

Once that has been agreed upon, then the senior management involves the middle management.  They discuss more detailed tactics on how to the middle manager’s area can help achieve the senior manager’s goals and objectives.  It is a two-way discussion with input and clarity from both levels.

This catchball or laddering conversation should happen level by level all the way down to the floor and then all the way back up to the executives.  This should happen a few times.  Not just once.

Here is a good graphic to try and depict the process:

strategy_deployment_flow

When done well, the benefits of this are enormous.  Everyone starts to understand the strategy and how their work is helping to achieve the vision of that strategy.

The discussion that happens during the catchball phase isn’t just between a team and their manager but also between managers that are peers.  This helps to develop alignment not only up and down the organization but also across the organization.  This alignment helps determine how to use the finite pool of people and cash to best achieve the company’s goals and objectives.

In my experience, company’s that have a great strategy deployment process end up with much better results year-to-year and can sustain those results because of the clear communication and everyone understanding the importance of their work.

Does your company use strategy deployment?  How does it work?

SAP…Not So Bad

When I’m wrong, I need to say I was wrong.  For years I have been staunch supporter of eliminating SAP.

SAP bad.  Lean Good.  That was my stance.

A few weeks ago, I went to an SAP conference to learn more about their Customer Relations Management (CRM) module.  My company is implementing this module in the next year and a half.

I learned a lot at the conference.  The most important learning I had was SAP has a lot of functionality that can be very helpful even in lean companies.

Don’t mistake this with supporting ERP/MRP systems.  I still believe that ERP/MRP systems are the opposite of lean and should not be used.  The mistake I made was equating SAP with ERP.

SAP has an ERP/MRP module that is a large part of their business, but SAP also has so much to offer.  SAP has ways to get data out and digestible.  It can give directionally correct data so you can go and see what is actually happening in order to solve the issues as an example.

I equated SAP to ERP/MRP and it isn’t.  SAP has benefits to even lean companies.  Understand what SAP has to offer and what your process needs are and try to match those needs up.  This is just true for SAP, but for any technology.

Technology can be a great thing, but only when it supports your process, not defines the process.

Working With People

When creating change it is not always easy working with people.  People are the largest variable in any change you want to create.  Because of this, different people and situations have to be handled in different ways.

One way is through demonstration.  Do the work on a project and show them the benefits of working in the new way.  Either show them after the changes are made or have them work alongside you as you make the changes and work in the new way.  This way the person gets first hand experience of the benefits.

Another way is coaching.  Have them do the thinking and the work on an improvement.  Learn by doing.  Be there with them, side-by-side.  Let the person bounce ideas off you.  Ask questions back to them so they develop the thoughts around what actions to take and the benefits gained.  This is usually very powerful, because most adults accept change and improvement when they completely understand it and what it can do.  This is a great way to gain the buy-in and understanding.

A third way is giving a large learning zone.  Give people the time and the freedom to make changes on their own without a ton of bureaucracy.  They will make mistakes.  It is important not to make it punitive for making a mistake.  Ask what they learned and how are they going to correct it.  It is amazing what people can accomplish and do when they have the comfort zone to learn.

There is not one way to help people learn.  You have to understand the situation and the person to best develop a plan to help them learn.  If it is something critical to running the business the learning zone may be smaller because you can’t afford to allow a mistake that shuts the business down, but coaching may be a good way.  The next time expanding the learning zone may be better.

If a person has baggage that prevents them from wanting to do improvement then maybe the first way is best.  Drag them along and let them see how it can benefit them.

People are our biggest variable to change, but they are also are most valuable resource.

 

The Answer is Easy…Better Forecasting

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever sat in a meeting where the discussion is about the high (sometimes low) inventory levels?  Do you frequently hear the answer of, “Once we get our better forecasting tool in place our inventories will be better.”?

This is a strong sign the company has not fully embraced lean thinking.

A lean company would not even have a discussion where forecasting tools are the solution.  A lean company is closely connected to their customers.  The goal is to make one product when one product is bought by the customer.  I know this isn’t easy for all companies, but the discussion would be around how to move in this direction.  Not how a better forecast can be generated.

There is one thing I can guarantee about a forecast.  It is WRONG!

I have never heard anyone say, “Man, I nailed that forecast!  I hit it right on the nose!”

Don’t misunderstand me.  I do believe there is a use in looking forward and understand what is coming.  A company would like to understand if a peak or a valley of the product sales might be coming.  This can help set and adjust maximum kanban levels for that period of time.

A forecast is good to understand directionally where volumes are heading.  Forecasting is not a good basis for your entire inventory strategy.

It is a difficult mindset to change.  When you do and act on that new mindset, the dividends it pays are enormous.

How Problem Solving and Agile Both Drill Issues Down

I have been learning about agile as of late.  I know how agile has gotten its roots from lean thinking as it is applied to software development.  It has been very interesting and fascinating to learn.

One common thread problem solving and agile have is making it important to break down the issue.

Good problem solving breaks down a large problem into smaller and very manageable problems to solve.

Agile does the same.  It is important to break an epic story (or very large story) down into manageable stories that can be built and tested in 2-3 days.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This is just one similarity between lean and agile I saw as I was in my class.  Seems simple but it really takes team to master to bet able to break stories and problems down to the appropriate sizes.

Art Byrne’s Response to My Book Review

After writing the review of Art Byrne’s The Lean Turnaround, I sent him a copy of the review before posting the review.  That is my standard work.  Not because I want the author to have editorial rights (by the way, no one has ever asked me to change my review), but because I think it is a courtesy  to let them have a preview before it posts.

As part of my standard review, there is a section where I talk about what was missing from the book in my perspective.  Art read my review and responded.  He DID NOT ask me to change anything about the review.  In fact, he was pleased with the questions I posed.  Art  asked if he could respond to my questions and what was missing.  I said absolutely.

As a recap, here is the section from my review:

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

This is a really good book, but I do see one thing missing.  Art speaks from a CEO or executive viewpoint, which is great, but what if you aren’t an executive?

One question I would like to see answered is how do lower level employees help executives want to do a lean turnaround?  Sure, one answer could be give them the book, but that probably won’t change everyone’s mind with just a single read.  How do you help an executive that seems to want to do it, do it?  Give them that final push and really start to see the benefits?

The book can also give the feeling that if you don’t have an executive leading and doing everything in the book then you might as well not go through with lean because you won’t be successful.  Art does not say that explicitly.  The book just gives that feeling.

With Art’s permission, here is his unedited response to my what’s missing from the book:

Matt, first of all let me thank you for your excellent review of my book, The Lean Turnaround. I really appreciate it and I was very happy to see that you got the main points of the book very well. You also had a couple of good questions that I would like to respond to just for clarity. Let’s take the softball question first. This wasn’t really posed as a question, but you say that I imply that if a company does not have the CEO (your term was “the executive”) leading the lean turnaround, then it might as well not start at all, since it won’t be successful. And my response is that your conclusion is correct. If the CEO won’t actively lead lean then my advice is don’t start with lean at all. That’s because you won’t get very far, and also because the entire campaign will just confuse everyone. There will be a huge gap between the things that are publicly said—and the actual commitment to lean and the actions that are taken. This has been a constant message of mine since way back in my Danaher days.

I’m going to respond now to what I believe is the basic question contained in your next comments—which, believe me, is a very good question that I get all the time in one form or another. To be more specific, I can’t remember a presentation that I have done to a national conference on lean where the first question from the audience is along the lines of “gee, that was great, but how do I get my management team to embrace lean, which I really believe is the right way to go?” This is of course a shame because it just serves to highlight the fact that most of the people attending the conference are mid-level managers or engineers who couldn’t get their senior management to attend in the first place. My answer to them is always the same. You have two choices. One, you can implement lean aggressively in the plant, division, product line or whatever you are responsible for. Go about it quietly though—you don’t want anyone above you to hear about it too early as they might try and stop you. While I was at Wiremold I introduced one of GE’s Aircraft Engine Plants to lean, and to the Japanese Consultants that I had been using (and that they are now using). At the time GE was all about Six Sigma, a very unfortunate diversion in my mind, and as a result, although they had great success with lean and became the best plant in Aircraft Engine, they were very careful to never mention the word lean and to just swear up and down that they were getting the results through Six Sigma. Once you have achieved great success and have a model line or model factory then you can show it off. Use that as leverage to get the CEO and the rest of the company to adapt it everywhere. Seeing success in your own company makes it harder for the CEO or the rest of the management team to say, “oh that lean stuff will never work here”.
Now, if this doesn’t work then your second choice is easy: quit and go work for a company that is really interested in lean. You’ll recognize this easily since the company will be aggressively pursuing it from the top down.

As to the other part of this question, “ how can I help an executive who seems to want to do it, do it?” Part of the answer here of course is exactly what I just said. In addition, I would recommend that you start by reading several key books on lean such as Lean Thinking by Jim Womack and Dan Jones, Toyota Production System by Taiichi Ohno, A Study of the Toyota Production System by Shigeo Shingo, Better Thinking, Better Results by Bob Emiliani, Real Numbers by Orry Fiume and Jean Cunningham, and Gemba Kaizen (2nd Edition) by Masaaki Imai. Then go visit some lean companies in their area, and ask to participate in their kaizens. You should also contact a high level lean consultant who teaches the Toyota approach and have them come and do a walk about in your company, and then share what they saw and what the opportunity is. Next, you should run a few kaizens in your facility (with you on the team of course) so you can start to see the opportunity and how people react; and then, and of course….take the lean leap. You can only learn by doing so at some point you have to start doing.

Thanks so much for giving me a chance to share my thoughts.

Regards, Art.

WOW!  My respect for Art grew even more with the response.  He took the questions, head on and didn’t hold any thoughts back.

What are your thoughts about Art’s response?  I am interested in hearing any feedback you have on it.