Thinking is For Factories, Too
I really like Seth Godin's blog… but when he steps into “Lean” territory, he tends to be wrong (as he was last year).
In his recent post, he explores the history of how Ford-ism (and I'd add Taylor-ism) impacted fundamental assumptions that we hold in current-day work life. Kind of an interesting read.
But his concluding statement is fundamentally flawed:
“Obedience works fine on the well-organized, standardized factory floor. But what happens when we start using our heads, not our hands, when our collars change from blue to white?”
I emailed Seth (who always responds) and told him that he had that wrong.
A “well-organized, standardized factory floor,” such as Toyota, doesn't lend itself to “obedience.” Toyota wants its people to think — hence the “Thinking Production System” (I know, sounds like a slogan, but it's a good one.)
The concept of obedience, asking people to just do their jobs without thinking or participation in kaizen… that's not ideal in a factory, or a hospital, or any other environment. What does white collar or blue collar have to do with it? Many people, in any setting, regardless of their education level, want to have their ideas valued, they want to contribute to improvement. It's wrong to belittle blue collar workers as not being interested in that.
As managers and leaders, we have to recognize that there might be fear. We have to explicitly give employees permission to give their suggestions and to make changes. Again, this is pretty universal, be it factories or hospitals.
I do agree with Seth that insecurity and fear are bad things – they do not lead to kaizen, efficiency, or quality.
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