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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Meet-up: Gemba Tale's Mark Hamel

Today, I am proud to introduce a good friend Mark Hamel. He is the author of Kaizen Event Fieldbook and blogger at Gemba Tales. Mark lives only a few miles away so he has been a great resource on my Lean Journey and someone I can confide in when the journey gets challenging.

The goal of Meet-up is provide you an opportunity to meet some other influential voices in the Lean community. I have asked the following series of questions to which he has responded:

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Mark Hamel and I am a lean transformation consultant, author, blogger, and eternal learner.

How and when did you learn Lean?
I really can’t say that I have “learn[ed] lean,” it’s more that I am learning lean. My lean journey began in 1994 while in industry. I was leading a cost-reduction task force for the Ensign-Bickford Company and knew that the typical cost-cutting projects were not going to be sustainable. I made sure that my team included a forward thinker, whose wife just happened to be a product line manager at the then lean powerhouse, Wiremold. After, finagling a visit to our company by Wiremold’s CEO, Art Byrne, our senior leadership decided to commit. I ended up becoming the company KPO (later plant manager, product center director, etc.) and thus began my on the job training. Years later, we won the Shingo Prize.

How and why did you start blogging or writing about Lean?
I began to write the book, Kaizen Event Fieldbook, largely as a way to capture what I believed to be the standard work around effective kaizen events. It was in response to witnessing folks struggle in event planning, execution, and follow through. Of course, I couldn’t help but getting into the underlying principles (the necessary thinking), lean leadership, strategy, KPO development, daily kaizen, etc. It was an honor to win a 2010 Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award for the work. I began blogging at Gemba Tales because I was told that that was what authors do. I anticipated that blogging would be an absolute chore. While it is challenging to balance work, life, and blogging, I have found it to be extremely rewarding. I truly enjoy the opportunity to write new content and interact with fellow lean thinkers, including other lean bloggers.

What does Lean mean to you?
Lean means deeply developing and engaging the workforce, at all levels, to continuously serve the customers and other stakeholders. It’s about making things easier, better, faster, and cheaper for the stakeholders, by genuinely and thoughtfully applying lean principles, systems, and tools.

What is the biggest myth or misconception of Lean?
I believe that the biggest myth/misconception is the narrow view of lean as being simply a toolset that is deployed by specialists to opportunistically reduce costs. Unfortunately, lean can be “used” this way, but it is a sterile, non-sustainable bastardization of a holistic business system…and it often treats people as a commodity.

What is your current Lean passion, project, or initiative?
I am working on a second book. It is a reference book that I would have loved to have had early on in my lean career. As my co-author and I get closer to publication, I’ll share the subject.

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