Lean & Deming

The issue of LEAN and Deming has intrigued me for years. My background goes back to when process improvement was called SPC, and LEAN was called Just-In-Time.

“Can a LEAN deployment successfully transform an organization without the application of Deming’s theories?” My answer is ‘NO.’  Implementing LEAN principles in an environment devoid of supportive management practices will only achieve limited results in the near future and not survive in the long term.  However, implementing LEAN in a supportive management environment will achieve great results.

At the 2007 Deming Institute Fall Conference, Norm Bafunno (Senior Vice President - Manufacturing & Administration, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc.) made a presentation about Dr. Deming-Toyota influence. Best I can recall, Mr. Bafunno made the comment that when he accepted the speaking engagement, he really didn’t know anything about Deming or the Deming Institute. So on the next trip to Japan to meet with his Toyota Sensei, Mr. Bafunno asked about Dr. Deming and Toyota. The Sensei responded that first Mr. Bafunno must learn what the Sensei was teaching (presumably the Toyota Production System), and THEN they could talk about Dr. Deming.

Dr. Deming’s teaching provides a chance for managers to view their own management practices in a new light. Dr. Deming challenged conventional thinking, and guided manager to think about how to create a better system of management. He tried to guide managers to create a management environment that supports a balanced approach. Where everyone engages in meaningful work, makes a contribution, and enjoys doing both.

I’ve noticed that Process Improvement programs grow over time. Grow in enthusiasm and scope. When the natural boundaries of Process Improvement programs are reached, enthusiasm is high and advocates seek to expand their influence into areas that are not their specialty.

For example, when Six Sigma exhausted efforts in process improvement, they moved toward the design of product or service. Advocates came out with DFSS (Design For Six Sigma). Actually DFSS is an offshoot of Value Analysis (the sister to Value Engineering), but that is another story.

As the name implies, Design For Six Sigma redesigns products for the benefit of processes. Otherwise the name would be Design for the Customer or Design for Value. At least Design For Assembly, or Design for Manufacturability are explicit and direct about what they expect to accomplish. What is missing from DFSS is the explicit focus on the customer and on providing value from the customer’s perspective now and in the future.

LEAN is the Americanized version of the Toyota Production System (TBS). Brought to us by Lean Enterprise Institute. LEI has done an admirable job of training American businesses through their mission of education, publishing, research and conferences. However LEI has reached the limit or saturation of TBS. Over the last few years LEI is moving towards defining (or Americanizing) the Toyota Management System. It is amusing to watch LEI grapple with the dilemma of defining TMS without mentioning Dr. Deming. However, you never know, they may succeed.

As a LEAN practitioner, we must understand the limitations of our profession, our selves and the environment in which we operate. And make a conscious effort to practice tolerance, understanding, and balance with all in which we interact

 Dave Nave & Associates 2019   -   dave@davenave.com