Following the Muri Mura Strategy

By Jon Miller Updated on October 25th, 2020

In the Seattle Times article Boeing Dreamliner on track, but rework may stretch to 2015, aerospace executives reported to Wall Street analysts the company’s historic scientific milestone of bending the fabric of time and space, as Dreamliner production achieved a state of being both on track and notably behind at once.

“By the end of the year, we should be in a position where … we would burn through about 60 percent of the airplanes we had up on the tarmac here,” Loftis said. “We’ll spend largely 2013 and 2014 and into 2015 redoing and finishing up the remaining airplanes.”

This would be a fine title for an article printed in December 2014, but unfortunately it is November 2012. On track, except for between two and three years’ worth of product that is either unfinished or needing correction. One wonders if the Boeing executive had visions of flaming c-notes when choosing the words “burn through about 60 percent of the airplanes” waiting on the tarmac.

The Muri Mura Strategy at Boeing

How many Lean practitioners and managers at Boeing recognized that their executives were following the Muri Mura Strategy for the Dreamliner? It is obvious now in hindsight, but should have been clear from the beginning. Muri is overburden or overloading a process such as setting unreasonable volume and cost targets to unproven suppliers. Mura is allowing uncontrolled variability in the process by accepting, making and passing on poor quality.

Overburdening a process makes fertile ground for mura. Muda is waste that results from overtime, rework, and penalties or cancelled orders. These are the symptoms of following the Muri Mura Strategy. A Lean strategy does more than attack the symptoms (waste) but aims to root out the thinking and incentives that allow decision-making to be based on muri and mura.

Pushing the Chain

In controlled experiments, when handed one end of a length of chain and asked whether the chain moves easier by pulling or pushing, nine out of ten well-fed, well-rested aerospace executives reported that pulling on the chain produces the desired result. However follow-on studies showed that eight of nine of these executives fail to connect the results of this experiment with the manipulation of their supply chains in the real world.

Boeing is not the first to struggle by pursuing volume, quality and cost in that order, nor will it be the last. Tragically, volume is the easiest output to measure, and therefore to incentivize. And yet there is no “Volume Department” in any company. Purchasing, Planning, Production, Shipping, Maintenance – almost everyone is responsible for Volume. Performance happens across the entire chain but our incentives come from discrete points along the chain, and volume is easy to affect locally. Therefore we pursue volume locally. We push our link in the chain.

Pursuing the Opposite of at Lean Stragey

The Muri Mura Strategy is the polar opposite of the Lean strategy but it has the benefit of being supported by traditional cost accounting models, pushing hard work and responsibility down into the supply chain, removing the need to build human capital, and being frighteningly easy to implement.

It’s a winning strategy that monopolies and duopolies have followed successfully for years. Someday, perhaps in 2016 by which time the remaining forty percent of aircraft on the tarmac have been burned through, a rising superpower with ambitions for a national aircraft industry may surprise us by revealing a supply chain designed based on the opposite principles muri and mura.

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