Lean Manufacturing

VP of Lean Enterprise Plays 20 Questions with Lean Managers

By Jon Miller Published on November 15th, 2004

We received an odd call today at Gemba. Our Office Manager transferred the call to one of our senior consultants, saying “The person on the line wants to know about Heijunka.” The caller whom we’ll call Jay to protect his identity was from a U.S. based fortune 500 industrial conglomerate who has been engaged company-wide in a Lean initiative for the last 2 years. We’ve had some dealing with this company in the past through consulting and training. Their VP of Lean comes from a prominent U.S. automotive supplier recognized for their Lean efforts, and we hold her in high regard.
What made the call strange was the anxious tone of the caller. “What is kanban?” he continued. Typically our callers are either customers looking for help or Lean folks looking for advice. This person gave us very little information about himself. He just wanted information, and fast. After a couple of questions, our consultant learned why. “They’re calling Lean Managers at (our company) asking us 20 questions. The call could come at any time. I need to be ready.”
While I have a lot of respect for how this corporation has gone about organizing their Lean initiative, the random and fear-inspring nature of this type of knowledge assessment of Lean Managers seemed a bit odd. The questions continued “What is OEE?” and “What are the 4 behaviors of a Lean Enterprise?”
If, as an appointed Lean Manger, you don’t know these things, isn’t it the responsibility of the corporation to provide the training? If the goal of the ’20 questions calls’ is to find out who needs more training, send out a questionnaire instead and spare the fear. If the goal is to cull out the weak, ask first which factories in which business groups need to know each Lean principle and tool, rather than putting everyone through the same filter.
If you are a Lean Manager from this company, and you would like us to answer these 20 questions about Lean, send us an e-mail. We’ll be happy to post the answers on our website. Our goals is to teach as many people as possible to think Lean and do kaizen the Toyota way. We’ll share all we know.

  1. Chew Eng Lee

    June 29, 2006 - 8:56 pm

    Yes, I would be happy to know more about Heijunka at this moment. Thanks for any info that you might have.

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