People vs Process. Lean vs ToC.

Kevin Rutherford responded to the People vs Process entry and asked the following questions:

  • Could it be that Toyota can afford to say “it’s always a process problem” because of the cultural values of their people?
  • Does Weinberg’s soundbite sound plausible purely because blame and ego are so deeply ingrained in Western culture?
  • Where Hansei is never associated with blaming, can there ever be a “people problem”?

Very good questions. But how do you get and sustain such a blame-free culture? Consistently seeing each problem as “a process problem, not a people problem” is part of that, I think. Of course, there’s a lot more to “The Toyota Way”.

Another example of this approach is Norm Kerth’s Prime directive of retrospectives: “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.” If we really want to have Hansei in the culture of most of our companies, we must first defuse all the blaming that we’ve come to expect.

The problem for many of us is that failing is generally not an option.

Marc Evers responded to the Lean vs Theory of Constraints entry and asked the following questions:

  • If you always optimize everything, don’t you run the risk of optimizing something that will never be used?
  • Isn’t the Theory of Constraints something like YAGNI for process optimization?
  • If you keep on optimizing bottlenecks, the bottleneck will move. Is this also true when you continuously optimize everything? Is the bottleneck dynamic the same?

The Toyota Way fieldbook says that every improvement opportunity will be used. Even if it concerns a process that will disappear in a few months. Apparently, Toyota feels it more important to keep the Kaizen (“continuous improvement”) spirit alive, than to save some optimization effort. As we’ve seen in the evaporating cloud, having a “Pull” system avoids most of the problems that the Theory of Constraints warns us of.

The X vs Y blog entries seem to generate some interest. Let’s see if I can find (or create) some more conflicts…

Tags: Systems Thinking, Theory of Constraints, Lean, Toyota Way

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