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Across the feeds of LinkedIn, to the tool chests of every self proclaimed lean or operational consultant out there stands ready the infamous "assessment".
Let us come in they say...we'll tell you how "mature" your organization is...then create a specific action plan for you...
That's right Jerry.
[The minion, I believe his name is Jerry...just saying]
NO Assessment Needed....well at least nothing that's "lean" or "six sigma" oriented...or "TLS" or "TOC" or any other alphabet soup title you want to slap on some overdone checklist.
But, but, but, but, how, how can you say such a thing?
This first topic has far reaching consequences...
Lean isn't something that you "add on" or "decide to apply" when the mood strikes you, or when you are given a new cost reduction goal. You either practice lean, or you don't, but we don't practice lean....and say we "we did the lean stuff". We run a business.
When someone goes to school to get their MBA, what they learn is considered a mastery level of BUSINESS administration. (how effectively that occurs is a subject for another day) When we hire a COO, we consider them to be the leader of OPERATIONS. So there's the Business, and there's Operations, and everything we do as part of the mastery of running the business / operations.
When we hire another leader, and call them the director of lean, or director of "OpEx" (yep, point the finger right at me too), or the VP of Business Transformation - we have to be VERY careful that what we aren't doing is making "lean" (or OpEx) something other than a different method of running the business. Lean (or whatever you want to call it) has to be the very principles by which you run that business.
Lean manufacturing, lean thinking, lean enterprise, lean IT, OpEx, Process Excellence, LSS, etc etc etc. If it's an "add-on", just forget it. Stop pretending. Stop creating the false hope that you might decide to lead differently.
But...if instead you really want to try a different way (different from the way taught and practiced by the majority of MBA graduates out there)
You need to embrace that lean IS your Business method, your way of thinking, and not something that needs assessed separately. If you do, then why do you need a "lean" assessment? If lean = "method of running a business", then just assess your business the same way you would any other day.
How do you assess your company's performance? Profit Sharing? Profit? Cash Flow? Customer Satisfaction? Turnover? These don't change when you move from command and control, zero sum methods to lean. (though lean certainly views some things differently from standard cost accounting, and doesn't make shareholders supreme).
"But Nick, we still need to know where a company is on it's lean journey".
Really? You need a full blown assessment to do that? You can't just...take a walk?
I'm going to steal a page from a past colleague of mine that once had a short document he'd give to us before doing site visits titled "Is it Lean?". These few questions were based on the idea that you are visiting a company or location...
AND...last but not least, a lean assessment boiled down to one little question:
Are the workers toilets as nice and as clean as the Executives?? I'll let you draw your own conclusions there as to how to judge this one.