As I was reading the latest issue of FORTUNE (October 13), I had a few Lean thoughts based on a few articles (which I can’t find online at the moment).
In the “The Best Advice I Ever Got” feature, it’s Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO of the hotel company that bears his name. His advice, stated in brief:
I think Bill is a Lean thinker without realizing it. When teaching courses about Standardized Work, I often cite Marriott (as quoted in Toyota Talent) when he says that having standard processes and methods is NOT about creating “mindless conformity.” As Toyota describes it, standard methods are all about eliminating the constant hum of (I think they put) the hundreds of decisions that would take place all day so you can have the mental bandwidth left to focus on the few major problems that pop up.
Marriott (and again I’m paraphrasing) said that standard methods allowed people be creative when that creativity was really needed to solve a truly unique problem. He doesn’t want people asking themselves, “How should I make this bed today?” That should be standardized. But he doesn’t want unthinking robots. It’s brilliant. It’s Lean thinking.
Back to asking for input — this is such a simple suggestion, but one that goes unfollowed in many organizations. In many organizations, the boss is under pressure to be the expert, to know the most, and to provide the answers. It might take a humility that many leaders don’t have — to ask your employees what they think the answers are. If someone comes to you with a complaint or a problem, ask them, “What do you think we should do about it? Is that something you and your teammates can solve on your own? Or, do you need my help?”
Moving on, page 40 has an article titled “Audi’s Clean Desk Fetish.”
There’s no mention of Lean or 5S (thankfully), but they talk about Audi’s new U.S. headquarters where”employees were instructted to make sure their desks were paper-free at the end of each day.”
This is the classic debate — does a messy desk inherently create “waste”?? I think you can take a good concept too far. Being a neat freak for the sake of being a neat freak doesn’t do anything for me (or a business, I think).
An executive V.P. said, “We want to create a sophisticated atmosphere.”
Uh oh, I’m detecting someone who takes himself too seriously (looking at you, Johan de Nysschen). Are we looking for effectiveness and quality in our work or “sophistication”???
As you know, not that it’s being done at Audi, I’m not a big fan of the ole’ “tape around the keyboard” trick that’s sometimes called “Lean.” What do you think?
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