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Friday, August 6, 2010

Lean Quote: Get it Right or Can't Get it Wrong

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Amateurs work until they get it right. Professionals work until they can't get it wrong." ~Author Unknown

This quote resounds of Lean Thinking.  One of the premises of Lean is to make it right the first time.  The truth is people make mistakes.

 In Lean organizations, mistakes are seen as opportunities to improve.  There is no blame game if something goes wrong.  People are not rewarded for how few mistakes they make, but on how well they improve the process when mistakes have occured.  Management bears the responsibility for creating effective systems that prevent mistakes.

To do this we need to understand the circumstances that led to the error.  The answer may be to evaluate standard work, make sure no steps are omitted, or to poka yoke (mistake proof) the process.  Don't make the mistake of believing every error requires a "device" to prevent recurrence.

The goal needs to be about making the work easier by thinking about the process as Taiichi Ohno says:

“Why not make the work easier and more interesting so that people do not have to sweat? The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity. People don’t go to Toyota to ‘work’ they go there to ‘think’.”

Lean professionals continually work to prevent the opportunity for errors since quality is of utmost value to the customer.

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  1. This post reminds of a quote by Bob Galvin of Motorola during the embryonic quest for six sigma quality in the 1980's..."Individuals make mistakes, but teams can be perfect." This thinking led to vastly different paradigms. Previously managers in search of higher quality felt people were flexible but unreliable and would make capital investments in machines that sacrificed flexibility for perceived more repeatably reliable results. These reliable yet inflexible machines cost business huge amounts of waste, because pre-lean accounting systems urged them to load up those machines.
    However, the lean thinking focus on people says that teams can give us disciplined behavior without sacrificing innovation and flexibility. This new man-machine paradigm sees people providing disciplined flexibility while machines thru SMED and preventative maintenance become flexibly disciplined.
    Gary Epp

  2. Great post, Tim. Leaders need to remember to look at the process and not just the operator. You know the process is broke when different operators are making the same mistakes yet many leaders still look at the operators....It's seems like an never ending quest to implement systems making it easy to get it right the first time.

    Chris Paulsen

  3. Another part of this thinking, is we should be pushing the limits of the process until it does break. Only then will we get better. If we do this, people will start to understand it is process that is broken and not the people.