Lean Manufacturing

The Purpose of Lean

By Jon Miller Published on July 31st, 2010

I think the purpose of lean is to get better at choosing good over evil. Most of us understand that lean requires us to choose value over waste, good over bad, and better over good. But to what end? How do we judge what is value and what is waste? The customer defines value, we may say, but many times the customer is fickle, wrong and even wasteful. The history of industrialization and modern business has shown that the pursuit of individual satisfaction or convenience today can lead to collective misery tomorrow. We can’t simply accept bad human judgment as “voice of customer” and blindly put our efforts towards fulfilling those needs efficiently. Genuine lean is essentially continuous improvement paired with respect for humanity. That is a simple yet effective definition of “good”.
I admit that this doesn’t make lean easier to practice. But maybe it makes it more worthwhile.

  1. John Santomer

    July 31, 2010 - 1:35 am

    Dear Jon,
    What can be added more to that? I rest my case…

  2. Luciano

    August 1, 2010 - 8:04 pm

    Some days ago I was discussing with a friend about the well-known dichotomy between result-oriented companies, and process-oriented companies. Here in Argentina, companies usually look for result-oriented people, and my friend (and many people here) doesn’t see anything wrong in that “request”. The talk I had with my friend made me realize that the only valuable thing in defending the process-oriented posture, is defining “process-orientation” as “good for life (humans and animals) and care for the world”. What else should we care for if not?

  3. Joseph

    August 2, 2010 - 1:05 pm

    Good Blog if the aim is to make people think. I have pondered this for some time. Hope I am on the right track.
    I totally agree that waste is a sin.
    I think a short extract from William Shakespeare may be apt. Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3. Polonius to his son Laertes.
    ” And this above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
    Good men should never surrender their integrity.
    When you have two choices it is best to pick the one that you can live with.
    This may be a good time to do a bit of Brainstorming. What went right, what went wrong and what could have been done better. ( Stand in the circle. ) PDCA.

  4. John Santomer

    August 5, 2010 - 12:58 am

    Dear Joseph,
    It’s ironic that you have chosen a line from one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. And Jon always likened Lean Leaders to be the “select group” facing the guillotine because of their “new” ideas. Aaron’s script in Shakespeare’s another tragedy (Titus Andronicus) made me smile…”If one good Deed in all my life I did,I do repent it from my very Soule.” Although the blood and gore from this tragedy is not recommended for viewing, the comic relief alone from thinking of having the tables turned around is hilarious…!

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