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Monday, May 20, 2024

Meet-up: 5 Questions from Within the Lean Community With Guy Wallace

This month A Lean Journey Blog turns 15 and as I look back on how I got started and who influenced my journey I wanted to revisit a previous series I started in 2012 called the Meet-up.

One of the things I am so found of in the Lean community is the general wiliness to share with each other.  I have learned some much from my very experienced colleagues since I have been an active contributor.  Every month I roundup the best Lean related posts and articles I found particularly valuable from these fellow bloggers and contributors. Each one has their own story and opinions to share.

The goal of Meet-up is provide you an opportunity to meet some influential voices in the Lean community.  I will ask these authors a series of questions to learn about them, their lessons, and get their perspective on trends in industry.

In today's edition, we are going to meet-up with Guy Wallace. I met Guy online of course as we shared a passion for Lean and blogging. 

Here are his answers so you can learn more:

1. Who are you, what organization are you with, and what are your current lean-oriented activities?

I am Guy Wallace. I’ve recently retired after 44 years in Enterprise Learning & Development.

2. How, when, and why did you get introduced to lean and what fueled and fuels the passion?

I’ve not been in TQM/Lean directly, but I have used the lean/ process streamlining principles learned initially at Motorola in 1981 from my training development work with my internal manufacturing, materials, and purchasing clients, including Bill Smith who taught me that before Six Sigma it was called VR – Variability Reduction. And from Geary Rummler, whose work at Motorola and elsewhere was focused on streamlining work processes to reduce touch times, cycle times, and costs. Then, in 1990, my client at AT&T Network Systems gave me a book that all the executives were reading, The Machine That Changed the World.

After Motorola, I joined a small management consulting firm in 1982 and was asked to create a Training Practice function, where I created Performance Based Instructional Systems Design (ISD) methods that years later led to my 1999 book, lean-ISD.

3. In your opinion what is the most powerful aspect of lean?

The measurable reduced work process cycle times, and costs.

4. In your opinion what is the most misunderstood or unrecognized aspect of lean?

For me, it was in the early 1990s when Six Sigma practitioners told me that Lean efforts should follow their efforts. They were wrong, of course, and that brought to mind what I had learned from the TQM folks at Motorola, which was that we were still Opportunity Rich.

5. In your opinion what is the biggest opportunity for lean in today's world? How can that be accomplished?

With all of the focus on Workflows, Work Processes, or Workstreams today, the notion of “streamlining” (versus “lean” perhaps) is a no-brainer to many clients and stakeholders.

Depending on the client and the language they are familiar with, I’d start the conversation with the word “streamlining” and then “lean” and show them examples of the measured results from lean efforts that are as close to their processes as possible, including the time and resources required.


Through their answers to these questions hopefully you will get a sense of the thinking behind those who are shaping the Lean landscape.  I continue to keep learning and thankfully with the willingness of these practitioners to share I am positive you will, too.

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