How to Design a Lean Enterprise – In Real Life

December 25, 2018 • ILE LAB • Boaz Tamir

There is no inherent value in an unrealized idea, a purpose that has not been translated into action, or a vision that has not been transformed into a way of life. This is also true for the world-wide Lean movement: We seek to design a concept of management and organizational culture that provide a means to cope effectively with the technological, global environment, geopolitical challenges and constantly-changing business environment. The world is looking for a new management paradigm. This is our raison d’etre, which we must strive to fulfill.

Ever since Jim Womack and Daniel Jones published their seminal work, “The Machine that Changed the World,” the concept of Lean has become an accepted paradigm for Lean Manufacturing and has expanded into the fields of health, services, tourism, and information systems.  Hundreds of manuals and thousands of consultants and activists have translated the operational principles of Lean thinking into workshops and community summits. The giants of the automobile, aviation, electronics, and banking industries, as well as major healthcare systems, have adopted Lean principles.  The Lean Start-Up movement has developed a road map that serves as a managerial paradigm for the entrepreneurial community, and Lean-Agile methodology has become an accepted standard in software development.

And yet, as Jim Womack has taught us, even though these facts reveal that Lean thinking is, indeed, an effective managerial paradigm, only a tiny percentage of managers have adopted Lean thinking in its entirety.

Jim Morgan articulated theoretical principles for product development based on the Lean Product and Processes Development (LPPD) employed by Toyota and he spearheaded the practical integration of this method when he headed-up product development for Ford.  The story of the translation of the LPPD principles into action is described in Morgan’s and Jeff Laker’s brand new book, “Designing the Future.”  The verification of the production principles brings the vision of Lean development and innovation closer to the stature of a globally-accepted theoretical paradigm.

Following a visit to Toyota in Japan in September 2017 (together with my colleagues from the LGN network) and meetings with Masato Katsumata, the chief engineer who leads the development of the Camry models for Toyota, I embarked on a journey of investigation.  I wanted to understand the role of the Chief Engineer (who can also be referred to as the Value Creating Architect [VCA]), and to fully understand the essence of product-development according to Lean principles.

To my great fortune, I have had the opportunity to experience a job similar to that of a Chief Engineer within the framework of an initiative to develop work standards for Lean management community.  The design of modes of action for leaders of organizational and social change in the Lean movement in the most practical terms has been the strategic intent, or “North Star,” of this initiative.

If a “product” known as a work standard exists and simultaneously serves as a clear framework for the creation of initiative, a communications protocol and a road map for every change leader, it is clear that this product is, indeed, necessary. Over decades of work as an entrepreneur, a manager, and a consultant for managerial change processes in commercial and public companies, I have searched for a practical methodology that will guide managers as they lead: a program that will support an organization along its journey to becoming a Lean enterprise.  While it is also important to maintain a variety of ways and means to lead change, if the journey is to be effective, it is necessary to generate a standard; that is, to create a universally-accepted work protocol that provides a stable foundation for social change and economic growth.

As a first step, I wanted to learn about and adopt the idea of a Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) based on codes and work methods, which is the “protocol” that enables Toyota’s Chief Engineer to engage tens of thousands of providers/partners in the development plan (for a certain model of car).

Inspired by Toyota, I sought to create a working-community network among a variety of peoples, cultures, and industrial characteristics: The Lean New Global Architecture (LNGA) lab.  It includes clear, consensual purpose, language and work procedures to provide the foundation for an incubator for the evolution of ideas.  Creation of a new standard (LNGA) that redefines concepts, roles and responsibilities– such as manager, team member, provider, customer and coach – is a condition for work stability and processes flow.

After 18 months of learning and preparation, the multi-national LNGA Design Team (LDT) was established (with members from the US, Spain, Holland, Denmark, Japan, Taiwan, and Israel).  During the exploration stage (Kentou) we formulated the LNGA Concept Paper lineup draft, which has been designed to present the purpose, vision and strategy of the initiative and to focus the development teams on its actualization.

The team has concluded the building of its Lean Meta-Process; we have not sought to define a Lean organization, but rather, to create a work standard that will guide an organization in its efforts to become a Lean enterprise.

The team applied the same LPPD principles that we teach our partners in the various companies.  For example, development of a product according to LPPD is predicated on the principle of full and continuous involvement of the users – the target customers – at all stages of development.  We did the same: each and every stage, component, and tool were built with experiment as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), then presented and tested in the field by companies in the midst of a Lean Transformation.  In this way, the “customers” of ILE (and similar companies throughout the world) became valuable partners in the development process.

The successful development and integration of LNGA will be evaluated not only by the redesign of the organizations transformation procedures with which we are currently working, but primarily according to its usefulness in leading similar processes in additional organizations along their journey towards change and its ability to  connect these organizations to each other.  When these organizations begin to learn from each other, we will know that the LNGA initiative has fulfilled its purpose and actualized its Managing to Lead vision: The implementation of a global managerial paradigm that creates value for us all.

Boaz Tamir, ILE.

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