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Worshipping the Hammer

Big_hammerIt's been rewarding to hear comments about my upcoming book from those who have read it already.  Rosa Say has already provided a sneak peak at the importance of systems thinking after reading an advance copy.  When writing about this topic, however, I couldn't help but make a couple of playful swipes at Six Sigma, Lean, Agile and UML.  Mind you, I have nothing against these tools per se, but I have taken exception with the people who worship use them.  As I was sharing with Mike DeWitt, I've really developed a cynicism over dogmatic consultants who salivate over tools and methodologies.  Try to make a disparaging comment about Six Sigma and "them's fightin' words, boy."  Challenge them on an element of Lean Manufacturing and be prepared to "take it outside, son."

Part of the challenge is the mindset of those who use these tools and methodologies.  In systems thinking, the focus is to get people looking at desired outputs first, then the inputs needed to get them there, and finally the process which will help in the journey from point A to point B.  While any of the techniques mentioned above can assist in this endeavor, those I've encountered are so enamoured by their precious use cases and DMAIC cycles, they've lost sight of the output.  And they end up chasing down some undesirable rabbit holes and waste valuable time, dollars, and energy focusing on the process over the outcome.

HammerLet's keep focused, folks.  Are you spending more time arguing about process than you are about outcomes?  Are you posturing and positioning on methodology more than you are on results?  Then there may be a problem.  As Carl Sandburg so eloquently put it almost a century ago:

I have seen
The old gods go
And the new gods come.

Day by day
And year by year
The idols fall
And the idols rise.

I worship the hammer.


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Eric Peterson

Thank you Tim. I loved this post. Since "Lean manfucaturing" has become the huge craze for one of my customers (a very large customer), it is now being forced upon us through supply chain integration. Because of this, I have taken a Lean Mastery course, and am suppose to be a lean guru at my organization. The problem is that I don't know if I have totally bought in to the system. I think Lean can work great in a Toyota, or in a one or few product line company, but I struggle on how to implement it in a "job shop" environment that has many, many product lines with a one job application.

Anyway....I've been having an inner struggle lately, and this post has helped confirm my skepticism. The problem, however, is I have to do what the company wants. So, I better wrap up this comment so I can head off to help our shop implement 5S ;)

Timothy Johnson

Eric - glad I could reinfore your intuitions. Sometimes you just have to play along with the tool-mongers. However, just don't let them lose sight of the big picture and the end outputs they are trying to achieve.

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