Record of Annual WSJ Just-in-Time / Lean Blunders


The Wall Street Journal, sadly, has a long track record of not understanding Lean, as I've written about many times on my blog. There's a major flare-up at least once a year, as listed below:







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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. The most recent 2011 WSJ bad piece on Lean/JIT:

    This article is full is mis-perceptions about Lean that the business world (and the WSJ) are still trying to recover from. Back in the 1980’s, most thought that Lean was just about just-in-time materials, supply chain, inventory, and production scheduling practices – people missed the broader management system of Lean and Toyota. This broader management system is really a total business system (see or the book The Toyota Way for more modern definitions of “lean.”)

    Another comment is correct that JIT was designed for local deliveries and supply chains within Japan, a small country where warehouse space was at a premium in factories. Toyota has more inventory in its supply chain when bringing parts from Japan to North America then they would for a supplier in their San Antonio plant and local business park. If companies are bringing parts across the ocean on a boat from China, you can’t do JIT. But you can still be a “lean thinking” company. It’s not all about zero inventory.

    Lean and JIT has never meant to be a substitute for thinking.

    If you have long supply chains, highly variable demand, or lots of risk in your supply chain, why would you assume JIT or Lean are possible? We are still recovering from an unfortunately titled book “Zero Inventories” from the 1980s. Executives apparently didn’t read that the title.

    Lean is about continuous improvement and total business effectiveness. It never was all about low inventory.

    These companies and this article miss the point. We can’t say “shame on Lean” but rather “shame on the companies that misapplied it” unless they companies learn and change their practices going forward. That’s a learning organization and that’s what Lean is really all about.

    One other thought – people say JIT is liable to disruptions. What if Japanese companies had huge factories pull of parts sitting there? The parts might have been damaged in the earthquake and tsunami. No production system can protect you from huge catastrophes. Truly lean supply chains are more flexible and allow companies to respond faster after disasters (such as Toyota’s quick recover from previous supplier plant fires and earthquake damage in past years).

    Here’a a consolidated record on how the WSJ usually gets it wrong on Lean/JIT;


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