Hat tip to Bob Emiliani (a Lean Blog sponsor) for pointing out this article a while back: “Case in Point: Avoiding martial-arts moves by ‘pulling the Andon cord‘” that was in the Washington Post, of all places.
The piece, written by a duo of a professor and a consultant, attempts (I think) to make Lean and process improvement concepts by creating a scenario in the daily life of a family. But, I’m torn between thinking the example is helpful and thinking it’s superficial. Is it really a good illustration of Lean?
To summarize the tale (and read it here):
- Two brothers are squabbling over use of a tricycle
- Mom gets out of the shower to address the argument
- The boys work out a way to share the tricycle
The article describes the mom stopping the family “process” (the arguing) as going to the gemba (the place where work actually occurs) and pulling an andon cord (a factory method for signaling a problem and calling for a supervisor’s help… which leads to a line stoppage if necessary to get the problem addressed).
One good lesson is that the mom (as supervisor) asks the kids what they think they can do to resolve their conflict… a good lesson, although I don’t like analogies of workplace managers to parents (neither would the authors of the excellent book Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment — as these analogies are demeaning to employees, as they aren’t children).
I’d also avoid calling a problem at home a “defect.”
The kids decide to share the bike and the mom says “Great problem-solving, guys.” I’m not sure the kids got to the root cause of the problem, but they did suggest a countermeasure.
Kudos to the mom in the scenario for testing the change over time, as she says:
This idea will only work if we all agree to participate. Why don’t we try it for a month? If a month goes by and we don’t think this is working, we can think of something else. All in favor say, aye!”
The idea of testing a change for a period and reevaluating is a good practice and it’s part of the PDCA/PDSA approach. But Lean isn’t really a democracy where workers would vote on an idea… it’s more a process of building consensus than voting.
Anyway, curious to hear your thoughts on the scenario and the effectiveness of vignettes like this in illustrating Lean concepts.
About LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Customer Success for the technology company KaiNexus. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.