Random Lean Thoughts – July 13


    Today's blog post will be just a bunch of random thoughts. For one, I just got back from London last night after a whirlwind Lean healthcare tour. I visited five hospitals between London and the south of England in three days, seeing organizations at various states of Lean, using different methods or “flavors of Lean.” Thanks to regular Lean Blog commenter andrewmc for lining up Wednesday's visits!

    Also attended Dan Jones' Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit that was done to launch their new book “Making Hospitals Work.”

    In my travels, I finished two books I had been reading in parallel and really enjoyed:

    I plan on doing a review of each book — but geared specifically for my healthcare readers, mainly.

    I also started reading a new book that has been very interesting so far:

    During my travels, I read a funny column about pay and bonuses in the finance industry by a columnist from The Independent. She asks why, if bankers love their jobs, do they need constant bonuses and excessive incentive rewards.

    She wrote, in describing a I-banker she knew:

    He loved his job. He did not have to be bound and gagged and dragged, weeping and wailing, into his gleaming office in the City. He did not have to be “compensated”, like some Nobel-winning novelist forced to write marketing material for Rentokil, with truckloads of cash. But he got them anyway. Because bankers, unlike every other breed of human being, will, apparently, work only if they're paid several times more than a prime minister.


    To switch on their computer, you have to give them something called a bonus. And if you accidentally give them one that's a few hundred grand less than the person they sit next to, there's hell to pay. And then you have to start the agonising process of recruitment – as tricky, apparently, as getting pandas to mate – all over again.

    Funny stuff. I'm not opposed to high pay. It's just the bonus culture of finance is very curious. I guess Dr. Deming would have thought everyone should be able to feel pride in their work, even bankers. But it seems the culture has evolved where nothing happens unless their incentivized. Anyway, I love the droll humor of the British newspaper columnists.

    Now I'm home, as I write this, on a Sunday night watching a Tivo-ed recording of Friday's 20/20 program about GM's past and future (you can watch a lot or all of it online, it seems).

    A few Lean-related tidbits:

    • There was a good discussion about kaizen and andon cords in the Toyota factories. A Toyota production VP from Indiana talks about the cords being pulled thousands of times per day. The quality teamwork portrayed is striking in comparison to the descriptions of the drudgery of work on the GM line (although GM people claim they've successfully copied that stuff now).
    • A UAW leader seems to overstate how “proactive” the union was in killing the infamous Jobs Bank. Too little, too late. The Jobs Bank seemed crazy 15 years ago.
    • Jim Womack said, on camera, that there's basically nothing in new CEO Fritz Henderson's resume that would give anyone any hope of things being different with GM leadership in the future. Ouch.
    • I caught the host saying “the leaner GM” meaning, of course, smaller not “Leaner” as we would say here related to the Lean/Toyota philosophy.

    And the funniest thing, to me, not being a fan of the rapper Ludacris. In a segment about GM's important role in American pop culture, they played a snippet from a song of his where he rapped about Escalades, including:

    Cadillac grills, Cadillac mill's
    Check out the oil my Cadillac spills

    Um, quality problems? Don't be ludicrous. The pop culture references from the 1960's (Little GTO, etc.) didn't mention quality problems did they?

    I also learned, from the WSJ Europe edition (MSNBC link) that Rick Wagoner is STILL a GM employee. He's just not CEO anymore. Still collecting his $1 salary and benefits while the company figured out what to do with him. And new CEO Fritz Henderson said he's never had a problem with the speed of decision making at GM (he said this to ABC, which teed up the slam from Womack). Fritz Henderson (like Wagoner) is the ultimate GM insider. He doesn't have a good perspective on what fast is, apparently.

    For the sake of being fair and balanced, the WSJ's Paul Ingrassia is optimistic about GM's future,
    which drew this letter in response.

    I'm fast off to bed… I love England, but it's nice to be back in the U.S.

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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.


    1. Mark,
      Thanks for the link to the online videos of the 20/20 series. I realized over the weekend I'd missed it on TV here Friday night :-)
      /Dr. Pete


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