When Your Only Tool is a Hammer…


IndustryWeek : Beyond Lean: The Perfect Lean Market

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… everything looks like a nail. Right?

I'm an Industry Week subscriber and the magazine is generally worthwhile. I've linked to some of their articles and commentary on lean that I've enjoyed and learned from.

This article I've linked to above, though, is almost comical. It's not worth the paper (or server space) that it uses up. I hate to generalize, but software company CEO's aren't exactly the first people I would run to for advice about lean. Industry Week can certainly find better commentators than this.

What do I take issue with, from the CEO of QAD Software?

First off, the title. “Beyond Lean: The Perfect Lean Market.” “Beyond Lean” is a favorite marketing term in the enterprise software world and it sounds silly every time I hear it. We're done with lean and time to move beyond it? Oh really? What's the hot new thing? I bet it's a software product that you are selling.

Secondly, the author says that while 80% of companies are working on lean, “less than one percent has lean practices in place.” Again, oh really? If only 1% are doing lean effectively, why are we ready to move “beyond?” It doesn't make any sense.

So what's holding companies back from doing lean? Ah, right — it's obviously a lack of enterprise and supply chain software. You wouldn't expect a software CEO to say that, now would you?

“The blind spot is supply chain communications.”, the author writes.

It's not worth nit picking everything, but the funniest comment about lean was this, while talking about the idea of agility:

Certainly, lean qualities are important to agility – witness companies such as Sanyo and GM shedding non-core businesses in order to focus and presumably, to eliminate distractions that slow down decision-making and action.”

She is using GM as an example of lean? The fact that GM sold off GMAC is an example of how they are being lean? I'm sure GM would be selling tons of cars if only they hadn't been distracted by that darn profitable mortgage business!

That, and I'm sure GM needs better enterprise software. We've found someone who can fix them, but only if you use her company's software. Good luck with that.

It harkens back to the earlier “siren song” posts, started by our friend Mark Edmondson. What is a “siren song?”

From Wikipedia:

The term “siren song” refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad result.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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