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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meet-up: Gregg Stocker

Today I am pleased to be able to introduce blogger Gregg Stocker. Gregg is the author of the blog Building a Fast & Flexible Company. He is a Lean consultant and accomplished book author. Gregg has a practical sense that makes his posts easy to relate to. He is frequently highlighted on the monthly round-up because of this. 

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Gregg Stocker and I am a lean advisor for an oil and gas producer supporting the lean deployment within the unconventional (shale) oil business. Throughout my career, I have worked in a variety of positions and industries, including serving as Managing Director of a polymers manufacturing and service company based in The Netherlands, Director of European Operations for a U.S. company, and Global Quality Director at an instrument manufacturer. 

I wrote the book, “Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline” (Quality Press) and contributed several sections to the recently released “Lean Handbook” (Quality Press).

How and when did you learn Lean?
I had a class during my senior year at Michigan State University on W. Edwards Deming's system of management (I won’t say how far back it was but well before this stuff was en vogue). I'm from Detroit and saw firsthand how destructive the traditional style of management was, so Deming's message struck a chord with me. It also helped me get a good foundation before I got into the workforce and picked up some of the bad Western management practices.

How and why did you start blogging or writing about Lean?
I want to help organizations improve but more than anything, want to help people get more enjoyment out of their jobs. This led me to write "Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral," because better leadership creates stronger companies and happier employees. 

After I wrote the book, I continued to learn and had more to say, which led me o blogging and public speaking. I also have learned so much from other bloggers over the years that I feel compelled to give back by continuing to blog, speak, and write books.

What does Lean mean to you?
This is a very difficult question to answer because lean covers so many aspects of a business. I guess if I had to boil it down to a simple answer, I’d have to say that it deals with the journey to absolute perfection. Everything we do as part of a lean journey – improving flow, continually improving, valuing employees, PDCA-thinking, etc. – is related to the drive toward perfection. 

The actions of many organizations on the lean journey demonstrate that they don’t understand that it’s about striving for perfection. Talking in terms of solutions - not celebrating “failed” improvement efforts, looking to competitors for benchmarks or to set objectives – are signs that the process fail to truly transform the organization and any gains made will most likely be short-lived.

What is the biggest myth or misconception of Lean?
There are so many . . . If I had to pick, I could probably narrow it down to two. The first is that lean is common sense. I think of this is an excuse made by people who don't want to do it. For example, common sense will lead most people to think that running large batches of products and creating inventory will improve performance because of long setups and uneven demand, but a lean mindset will tell you just the opposite. 

No matter how far an organization has gone with its transformation, there are natural forces to pull it back to the pack. Lean will never be sustainable on its own. 

The second myth is that lean can be delegated. Transforming an organization absolutely requires commitment and involvement of leaders - not just support. Without a strong level of commitment, there will be too much friction between those who buy into and are involved in the transformation and those who don't or are watching from the sidelines.

What is your current Lean passion, project, or initiative?
I’m writing my next book on organizational transformation. Lean is a complex subject and I’ll continue to look for ways to convey the message in a clearer and more concise manner. 

I’m also continuing my effort to bring a lean mindset to the oil and gas industry. Lean is a new frontier for E&P companies and its exciting to be a part of the transformation.

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