Dave Gleditsch, Chief Technology Officer, Pelion Systems, makes many excellent points in: Transforming Your Business To Lean: Lessons Learned [the broken link was removed]:
Often measures become the focus and the reason for improvement is obscured. Improvement should eliminate waste and improve value to the customer. Measures should help determine the success along that path but improving the numbers is not the aim, the numbers are merely proxies for that aim.
Successful management improvement is not about mindlessly applying quality/lean tools. The tools and concepts are very helpful but then people must make judgements about what is needed, what to emphasis, where to focus, how to proceed given the current organization…
This can be tricky. I agree with the sentiment. I also worry that people will be too focused on measurable results. Relating resource expenditures to results is important but “most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable” (Dr. Deming quoting Lloyd S. Nelson, Out of the Crisis, page 121). My view is that it is very important to truly understand the value of Llyod Nelson’s statement and then do your best to evaluate the return on investment. This means trying to measure as well as can be done and in evaluating success using judgment, an understanding of systems thinking… where measures are not obtainable. You must not ignore things just because you can’t measure them.
Another good point.
Related: Voice of the Customer – Distorting the System – Data Based Decision Making – management improvement articles – lean manufacturing portal
I like your comment about people making judgement, emphasis and not midlessly applying tools. However in my experience, there is a more fundamental issue: people resist change. They have their own way of doing things, and find it hard to embrace something new, even if they know it’s worth it. Too often, management looks for a best practice and a tool and somehow hopes that their staff will modify their behavior to fit the tool. These days Lean is big, but 10 years ago it was ERP’s. In fact I think tools make more difficult. If you only introduce the best practice, the staff has to face a manager and say “no, I don’t want to” and that’s hard. But now you bring a soulless software tool. So everybody blames the tool for not being “right for us”. While management wretles with that – nobody needs to change…