So a new year is upon us and I’ve come up with one personal and one professional new year resolutions – loose 15 pounds and reduce waste at work. In the spirit of this years presidential election (USA), if I were stumping for the job my two campaign slogans would be “Loose Lose Weight in 2008″ and “Eliminate Waste in 2008″. Okay, so I won’t be hired to be anyone’s campaign PR person anytime soon, but you get the idea – I am making a personal and professional commitment to become lean this year.
Professionally, last year I spent a lot of time reading about lean principles and now it is time for me to begin to apply what I have learned to improve my daily Search Engine Marketing routine. I am not sure if Lean Search Marketing will become a household name by the end of this year, but it has to begin by switching gears from a learn by reading to a learn by doing mentality. Actually the reading part doesn’t end, it’s the commitment to the doing part that needs to kick-start and take hold. And I am confident that learning by doing will not be an issue – this is core to my personal work ethic. The challenge, however, will be changing the way I think and approach Search Engine Marketing and passing on this new way of doing things and knowledge to others within the value stream.
As I have mentioned before, I worked for Rath & Strong and had plenty of exposure to lean and Six Sigma, but never really understood the power of either management system or methodology. It is somewhat ironic that a company specializing in process improvement training and consulting never actually practiced what it preached and it was only after I left to join Commerce360 that I truly became interested in process improvement and, especially, lean. So now that I’ve ‘seen the light’ I wanted to share a few resources I came across in 2007 that I found incredibly useful and informative that I plan to use as a guide for my own personal and professional lean transformation.
First off I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Jeffrey K. Liker who is Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering and Director of the Japan Technology Management Program at the University of Michigan. Last Spring I bought a copy of Dr. Liker’s The Toyota Way and it was this book that really sparked my interest in learning more about the Toyota Production System (TPS). The Toyota Way goes into a lot of detail about how the TPS came to be and how, from a business culture perspective, Toyota has be able to sustain this highly successful management system for over 50 years. I naturally followed this book up with The Toyota Way Fieldbook co-authored by Dr. Liker and David Meier. This companion book to the Toyota Way gets deeper into the various components of the TPS such as kaizen events, kanban, 5S, standardized work, continuous flow, developing people and building a culture that stops to fix problems. Both books are very well written and provide everything you’d need in order to take the first steps towards creating a lean business environment.
The other person I’d like to introduce you to is Bob Emiliani who is a professor in the School of Technology at Central Connecticut State University. Mr. Emiliani teaches graduate courses in leadership and supply chain management in context of of Lean management. In his book, Better Thinking, Better Results, Mr. Emiliani along with David Stec, Lawerence Grasso and James Stodder capture a 313 page case study of the enterprise-wide lean transformation that took place at the Wiremold Corporation in the 1990′s. The case study documents in detail what CEO Art Bryne and his team were able to accomplish in less than 10 years by applying lean across the entire company and how quickly that came to an end when Wiremold was acquired by Legrand – a French company that ran on a batch and queue business model and refused to learn about lean. The interviews in this book with the senior executives at Wiremold who experienced the rise and fall of lean first hand makes this book a remarkable read.
These books along with a collection of other books from ASQ and Productivity Press have armed me with enough information to be dangerous, but in a good way. It’s clear that lean is an extremely powerful and complete management system, but it can do more harm than good if not implemented correctly. Or as Mr. Emiliani would say – “Fake lean is worse than Real Lean” which just so happens to be the next book on my reading list…