Lean Thinker Challenge #4

By Ron Pereira Published on January 7th, 2014

Lean DocumentaryWelcome to the first Lean Thinker Challenge of 2014!

The Situation

You’re the owner of a very successful manufacturing company.

Your company began its lean journey 10 years ago and has realized tremendous benefits.

In fact, lean thinking – along with an excellent product and customer support – has enabled you to assume control of your particular market.

With this said, your main competitor keeps a very close eye on you. They’ve even attempted to hire away some of your top associates.

This competitor knows you’re practicing lean and is very intrigued to learn more about what you’re doing in hopes that they too can find a competitive advantage.

The Challenge

A local television station has approached you. They want to feature your company in an upcoming documentary of successful businesses in your area. They’re specifically interested in how lean has impacted your business.

You’re very excited about the exposure this will give your company. You’re also excited about how happy, and proud, your associates are that their hard work has resulted in this sort of positive exposure.

But, alas, with this excitement comes fear.

You see, if you allow the documentary to be produced your competitor will learn exactly what you’re doing. You’re nervous this could enable them to close the gap on you.

What would you do?

Would you go ahead with the documentary? If so, why? If not, why?

  1. Shane Altier

    January 7, 2014 - 11:52 am

    I’d definitely go ahead with it as long as I had final say on what is shown.

    Besides, the tools of LEAN can be copied by anyone but the leadership and perseverance needed to sustain improvements can’t be copied.

    • Ron Pereira

      January 7, 2014 - 12:07 pm

      Great point, Shane. Thank you for the comment!

  2. Jason Stokes

    January 7, 2014 - 11:55 am

    Video away. Show it all.

    I can watch Adam Wainwright throw a curveball all day, but I’ll never be able to do it. Lean isn’t about seeing the tools and watching them in action, it’s about a deep seated culture of mutual respect and improvement.

    • Ron Pereira

      January 7, 2014 - 12:06 pm

      Great analogy, Jason! Although I’d say someone like Yu Darvish would be better to watch if you want to learn how to pitch. Ha! Just messing with you!

      Happy New Year my friend! Hope you and your family are doing great.

  3. Joe Haniford

    January 7, 2014 - 2:18 pm

    I would definitely do the documentary as recognition for the employees who generated the results and the business. Lean tools are well known in industry. They are simple to understand and difficult to deploy successfully. The key to successful implementation is participative, supportive and coaching leadership, a culture of engagement, a learning organization with a huge dose of perseverance! Very hard to duplicate by a “copy cat” competitor.

    • Ron Pereira

      January 7, 2014 - 2:22 pm

      Thank you for the comment, Joe! I guess there’s a reason companies like Toyota offer tours to anyone that wants to see what they do.

      • Rick Foreman

        January 8, 2014 - 7:16 am

        This question came up with senior management, when we participated with a point-kaizen project with someone a few years back. And since that time, the same type of sharing or letting “out,” what we’re doing with lean, seemed to be a concern for some. Yet, those fears were calmed as we explained that everyone has access to the tool box but it is the daily engagement, connection and influence with team members in the gemba that transforms the culture. It’s frankly a lot of hard work but very rewarding and showing a clip or report doesn’t come close to showing the daily execution of a CI transformation or culture. We open our shop to others, share in the community and would have no problem with video reports.

        • Ron Pereira

          January 8, 2014 - 7:41 am

          Thanks, Rick! The lean community is so much better because of you. Thank you for all you do. Be blessed!

  4. Nitin Agrawal

    January 8, 2014 - 7:40 am

    Yes, I would go ahead with the documentary. The fear of Competitor knowing exactly what I am doing is not correct. Lean is not a tool that can be just applied anywhere and results obtained. Lean is about a cultural change and driven Top Down with persistence and full dedication. Just by knowing what has been done does not bring the drive, cultural change, engagement of the team etc.

    • Ron Pereira

      January 8, 2014 - 7:42 am

      Great point, Nitin. Thank you for the comment!

  5. Rory

    January 8, 2014 - 8:35 am

    I would let the media in to showcase the operational improvements Employees would be proud and engaged, a culture needed for sustaining a continuous improvement environment. Yes, the competititve advantage becomes known, but knowing CI is part of your vision, you will always outstep the competition. Also, Lean operations undoubtedly took a great deal of time and effort. I have seen few shortcuts on the journey.

  6. Tracy Leaks

    January 8, 2014 - 9:16 am

    Yes, I would go ahead as planned. Sharing the successes of the people involved is a great hit for Lean and for the company. We are taught that the Respect for People principle is necessary to be a success. The fear of a competitor knowing what has been done is just fear. If we are confident in our processes and the successes of Lean then there is no need to fear. Anyone can use the tools but only the true Leaders can lead the journey!

  7. Greg Hershman

    January 8, 2014 - 9:48 am

    Do the Program for the Local TV Station.

    Lean, as a concept, is necessary for the USA to continue as a leader in business. Therefore, every company in America needs to work towards being as Lean as possible. Your competitor will always ‘play catch-up’ to you IF you stay on top of your Lean thinking. There is no more lame excuse for not helping others than “He may become as good as I am.” We teach kids in school to help them become as good or better than we are, we publish books to help people become better. The mentoring system, being a parent; all of these things are meant to improve others.

    To NOT help others is not the way a Lean thinker would act.

  8. John Zukowsky

    January 8, 2014 - 9:54 am

    Absolutely would do the video without hesitation. The one thing my competitor can not copy is the mind set of my people and the leadership that make the lean principals so effective in continuous improvement. Without leadership not only driving the change but also living it as part of our everyday job the organization will see lean as ‘word smithing’ rather than an inherent way of doing business. That’s something that no competitor can steal from an organization that realizes it all starts with the people and the genuine respect and trust bestowed upon them to both lead and drive change.

  9. Peter Hanratty

    January 8, 2014 - 10:04 am

    I have documented a series of short videos on how jet engines are overhauled and the response from employees was fantastic. The participants displayed pride in their work and there was not a single person who refused to take part when asked.
    I think they enjoyed the recognition.
    The implementation of continuous improvement (CI) philosophy is considerably easier when participants can see that their improvements and their efforts are acknowledged. If there are fears that competitors will jump ahead; the whole concept of CI is that it is ‘continuous’.
    By the time the documentary is edited and viewed by others I would expect that the company should have already moved forward with its CI program.
    I would also expect that the release of the documentary should prompt the company that it cannot afford to be complacent with its achievements and if they want to stay ahead they must move ahead.
    In my opinion; ‘Imagination, creativity and continuity, is much more powerful than information in creating progress with CI’.

    I would go ahead believe that it is a good idea to go ahead with the documentary.

  10. Anonymous

    January 13, 2014 - 8:37 am

    Stealing others’ ideas was always there. Successfully implementing them and overtaking competitors wasn’t.

    Keep calm and show it all.

  11. Jonathon Cunningham

    January 15, 2014 - 10:55 pm

    I would definitely do the documentary. Knowledge is an island very distant from understanding.

  12. Mike Hahn

    February 20, 2014 - 4:03 pm

    No fear. A short documentary will show the physical results of lean culture but not how to develop and sustain it. TV stations and newspapers always get the facts wrong anyway so don’t worry about the documentary.

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