The Thinking Rat Race

We’ve recently had some really fun podcast conversations centered around the whole “respect for people” topic.

My friend and colleague, Jon Miller, challenged the idea of whether lean is really all about people.  Fellow lean thinker Michael Ballé then joined in on the conversation and while it wasn’t an argument, or heated debate, Michael seemed to lean (no pun intended) towards the “lean really is all about the people” side of things.

As I’ve reflected on these discussions I couldn’t help but see a parallel to the old debate of which is better… lean or six sigma.  This argument is normally lead by lean thinkers who often open with, “I don’t have anything against Six Sigma…”  They then commence to bash it, or at least the parts of it they don’t like or agree with.

My response to the “which is better – lean or six sigma?” debate is always the same.  Silence.  You see, I think it’s a foolish debate since, in the end, I believe knowledge is power and the more we know about all aspects of continuous improvement… whether it be lean, six sigma, theory of constraints, TRIZ, or any other approach the better off we’ll be.

Likewise, when we start to stress and debate about things like whether lean is, or isn’t, all about the people… or all about the tools… or all about a combination of people and the tools I think we’re dangerously close to finding ourselves in what could be referred to as the thinking rat race.

Sure, thinking is critically important when it comes to lean or TPS (which some call the Thinking Production System) but, eventually, we have to practice some fortitude and step out, with courage, and try some things.  So, think, yes.  Just ensure the thinking doesn’t stop you from taking action.

Finally, I do believe I know the correct response to the question of whether is lean all about the people.  In fact… if you’re a seasoned lean or six sigma thinker you also know the best response which is, quite simply, “I don’t know… what do you think?”  Actually, scrap that… as this would only start another thinking rat race!  🙂

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