Who are you and what do you do?
John Hunter (www.johnhunter.com)
Author, recently publishing my first book
Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability
and various blogs
I also do some management consulting and I manage over 30 websites http://johnhunter.com/websites.cfm
Previous I worked for the American Society for Engineering Education, Office of the Secretary of Defense Quality Management Office and White House Military Office.
How and when did you learn Lean?
If you classify lean the way I do (by the principles not the name) I learned about it as a kid before the name existed. I remember my father http://williamghunter.net/ talking about "the machine that changed the world" before the book was published. He was involved with this stuff before I was born and gradually as a kid it started to seep into my consciousness.
He was a professor and consultant and we would visit factories occasionally, while on our family vacation http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2011/07/13/touring-factories-on-vacation-when-i-was-young/ (the ones I remember were when we lived in Nigeria for a year).
I learned these ideas first through statistics and scientific thinking, then through the management consulting my father and George Box were doing. Then through Brian Joiner, Peter Scholtes and others in Madison, Wisconsin working on improving management and working with Dr. Deming.
I created the Online Quality Resource Guide in 1996 (which evolved into http://curiouscat.com/guides/ ) and served on the board of the Public Sector Network which then became the ASQ government division. I maintain the Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site http://curiouscat.com/psci/
It really wasn't until much later than I was focused on efforts called lean - probably until 2005, or so.
How and why did you start blogging or writing about Lean?
I wanted to increase the adoption of better management practices. When I started there was literally almost nothing on the internet about management improvement at all and I tried to help direct people to those few resources online. Initially, many of the resources were not on the web; they were on dial up bulletin boards and ftp sites and usenet. Also email lists were useful (very few, but at least there was some talk of good ideas).
Dr. Deming had a personal mission to advance commerce, prosperity and peace. I share this vision. I think it is hard for people in rich countries to understand. Over a billion people today have difficulty getting access to even clean water and electricity. It was much worse 50 years ago. The way to provide better lives to people (especially the poor around the world) requires commerce and prosperity.
It is hard for those in rich countries to understand how fundamental that is. We are not talking about the commerce of over-abundance and those that claim to struggle living on $100,000 a year. I am talking about commerce and "prosperity" where everyone has clean water, food, shelter, decent education decent health care, electricity... I see the path to this through commerce, not charity or something else. Charity and other solutions are necessary band-aids to buy us time to develop commerce to provide "prosperity" to everyone.
The other push for me is joy in work. People should not be miserable in their jobs. We can create what is needed while people have joy in work.
What I care about it helping improve those 2 things: prosperity through commerce so nearly everyone has basic human and economic needs met and so people have work lives they enjoy and are proud of.
Peace is also critical. Dr. Deming lived through, World War I, the great depression, World War II and post war recovery in decimated Japan. The importance of peace was very obvious to him. Obviously, peace is a tough goal to achieve. I think commerce and prosperity go a long way to helping the cause of peace (though prosperity and technological innovation also provide great risks of catastrophic weapons). Human nature doesn't change quickly, we have to change systems so that war is not chosen as the course of action to take, even when our human nature leads us in that direction.
When I sought to publish my list of online management resources I started on a dial up bulletin board - you had to connect by dialing a phone number and use your modem to talk to the computer on the other end. Then I was able to find an engineering professor at Clemson to publish my guide on the web (getting your own web site wasn't easy back then). I created my own websites starting in 1995. I started writing content articles on management improvement myself probably around 1997.
I started the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog http://management.curiouscatblog.net/ in 2004.
What does Lean mean to you?
I think of it in two ways. First the way I see it for myself is in a very broad way as the application of Deming's ideas through the Toyota Production System which was then given the name lean manufacturing. And I see various tools and concepts as fundamental to lean: gemba, kanban, andon, value stream, JIT, single piece flow, A3, 5s... Respect for people is core to lean, but I see that as flowing from Deming's ideas (so I don't see it as a specific lean idea).
When I hear others talking about lean I need to understand the context (from what else they say) to pin down what it means in their minds. Often, sadly, it is too superficial and missing critical core elements of what I think need to exist for the term "lean" to mean much of anything: respect for people, for example. Sadly I think most organizations saying they are practicing lean are not what I would consider lean.
I discussed this idea in http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2012/05/03/lean-manufacturing-and-the-toyota-production-system/
What is the biggest myth or misconception of Lean?
That the tools are the totality of lean. The tools are great. The tools are even very useful without adopting a lean management system. But adopting a lean management system is many times more powerful than just adopting tools. The tools fit into adopting a lean system and will be used. They are a necessary but not sufficient component of lean.
What is your current Lean passion, project, or initiative?
Probably my book.
Also, I recently started authoring The W. Edwards Deming Institute blog so that is currently of extra interest to me. I have been involved with agile software development ideas and lean software thinking and that area also hold heightened interest for me.
And my work with Hexawise http://hexawise.com/ a software test plan creation system is also on the top of my list now. It ties to many of my interests in management improvement - using tools and statistics to create systems that are efficient and effective http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2010/05/17/combinatorial-testing-the-quadrant-of-massive-efficiency-gains/ The combinatorial (pairwise, orthogonal array) testing concepts behind the power of creating efficient and effective test plans ties to the work of my father and George Box in design of experiments http://curiouscat.com/management/doe.cfm I always have extra passion around things that include ties to my father's work.