A book full of surprises. The core of the Lean Production philosophy is outlined in this 80 years old volume: Flow of material, reduction of buffers, continuous training of personnel to move from doing to supervising and improving the process… All of it is described in this visionary work by Henry Ford. The reason I got this book to read was that it was referenced heavily by Taiichi Ohno in his book on the Toyota Production System.
The questions that pop to my head when reading this is: Why was this forgotten? Why is it not more widespread? Why did I not experience this when working with Ford people at VoloCars? Why did it work for Ford in the 20’s but not in the 90’s?
My hypothesis is that it is hard to run companies this way. It puts very high requirements on managers to be able to give latitude and freedom to the workforce, to build trust and honesty. It is hard to pursue the ideals of lean, to sceptically look at yourself and admit that also you need to improve the way you work.
It is easy to point a finger at someone else and know better how they should improve their processes, but very, very hard to look at yourself. Especially in the office environment, we are surrounded with artefacts that identify our personality with the job, so any attack on the latter is felt as an attack on the ego.
Being a project manager, I understand fully why I sometimes order things late, but I have very little understanding or compassion with the purchasing department who is consistently slow in their processing of the order. I guess you recognize this from your organization’s favourite complaint department?
But the challenge I see is to be humble and open towards all the stakeholders and listen carefully to what they say. After all, the most effective starting point to drive an improvement is the center of your circle of influence – yourself.
Even though I could/should start resoutely Today, I conclude with allowing myself to think that Tomorrow is also good enough…