Today’s Dilbert will resonate with Lean thinkers and, I think, with the Lean Startups crowd:
Lean management is not the same as old fashioned cost-cutting. Lean focuses on quality and time (flow), meeting customer needs in a way that ends up with lower cost. But that’s very different than cutting costs (such as hospitals laying off employees when times are tight).
Less meeting time – if the meetings are waste, that might be a good move. I know of some hospitals that, as part of their Lean culture, are banning meetings during the first two hours of the day so managers can be more engaged with employees at the “gemba” – the place where work is really done (the shopfloor or the point of patient care).
Lean is different than old fashioned micromanagement. A Lean leader sets direction and coaches people, but a Lean leader doesn’t have all of the answers, not are they “top-down” directive, in the traditional sense.
Eric Ries and the Lean Startups movement are thankfully emphasizing that “lean” doesn’t mean cheap – it means fast and iterative. That’s a great lesson for any industry.
Traditional cost cutting is a death spiral – case in point, the now bankrupt Borders bookstore chain that was scrimping on inventory and store staffing… angering the customers they had left, leading, I’m sure, to more cost cutting. Circuit City went through the same death spiral, as I blogged about in 2007.
Amazon, a Lean thinking organization, finds new ways to add value to customers instead of just cutting costs. Unfortunately, Amazon seems to be trying its hardest to avoid sales taxes, leading them to close a Texas distribution facility… but that’s a different topic for a different post or a different blog. I’m not sure I admire Amazon for what they are doing there.
Anyway, I saw today’s Dilbert and couldn’t resist blogging about it real quick…
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