The 10 Commandments for a Lean Journey

Raymond Chandler was an early 20th century novelist of detective fiction. Most of his books were turned into movies. Fans of the genre may recall Humphrey Bogart’s iconic portrayal of Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe. As a writer of pulp fiction, his prose was well respected by other serious writers. Chandler influenced other writers of detective fiction. This was not by chance. Chandler had his own system, standards and principles for good writing. These are codified in his Ten Commandments for the Detective Novel, listed below. The detective novel must

1) …be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
2) …be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
3) …be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.
4) …have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.
5) …have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.
6) …baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
7) …have a solution that seems inevitable once revealed.
8) …not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
9) …punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law…. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.
10) …be honest with the reader.

In some ways a lean journey like a detective novel. There is a sense of urgency, danger or creative tension. A murderer may not be on the loose, but there are systemic wastes murdering our bottom line. In a lean journey, as in a detective novel, there are questions that must be answered. In both, we must seek the truth, follow the evidence, and bring the source of wrongdoing to justice. We can’t simply lock up the usual suspects and to solve the mystery. As in the best detective novel series, there is always another adventure in the lean journey. Even after the detective has solved the crime, the world is not free of crime. There will be other crimes to solve, other improvements to make to processes.

With that in mind, here are the 10 Commandments for a Lean Journey, as seen through Raymond Chandler’s filter. The lean journey must

1) …be credibly motivated, both as to the reason for starting and the ultimate goal.
2) …be technically sound as to the methods of problem detection and resolution.
3) …be realistic in expectations of the people and culture. It must be about real people in a real world.
4) …have a sound story value apart from the problem-solving element: i.e., the journey itself must be an experience worth having.
5) …have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily to anyone.
6) …baffle a reasonably intelligent reader. Remember, lean can be counter-intuitive.
7) …have solutions that seem obvious once revealed.
8) …not try to do everything at once.
9) …solve the problem in one way or another, not necessarily by root cause correction… If the problem is not contained and the customer is not corrected, they will be irritated.
10) …be honest with people.

Two early 20th century detective novel writers is not a trend, but Raymond Chandler’s 10 commandments and Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for gemba walks have some things in common. Both stress being realistic, practical and simple. They are centered on people and their stories.

To paraphrase Chandler, “In a lean journey, when in doubt, have two people come through the door to the gemba.”

1 Comment

  1. RICK FOREMAN

    January 7, 2019 - 9:04 am
    Reply

    I’m a big fan of utilizing outside sources for reflection and this one is excellent. It seems our ability to sustain lean lessons through the constant barrage of daily work can be enhanced through story telling. Great reflection for a journey and/or novel that never ends.

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