Lean Improvements and Data

I write a weekly RELENLESS HANSEI topic on my desk whiteboard and was looking through Liker’s The Toyota Way for a possible topic.  On page 261 I came across a powerful message:

“We discovered the top management in the companies with vital programs had process orientation, while the unsuccessful companies had results-oriented managers.  The results-orientated managers immediately wanted to measure bottom-line results of the continuous improvement program.  The process-oriented managers were more patient, believing that an investment in the people and the process would lead to the results they desired.”

This passage came from the section on the role of metrics.  This made me reflect on the harmonies of organizational culture.  If you speak about investment in people or lean improvements but measure hard results, the potential to be out of sync is high. 

When organizations are results-orientated, the potential for bad data exists also.  I have seen where correlation and causality get confused to be able to report results.  Results-oriented metrics can get murky for medical publications as well.

What are your thoughts?

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3 Comments

Filed under Improve With Lean

3 responses to “Lean Improvements and Data

  1. Hi Brian, Interesting dilemma. Organizational culture is one my favorite topics. I love that quote from Toyota Way and I miss chatting with my cube neighbor

    The more complex the organization the more process work matters. Yet, your right there can be a sort of discord between this practice and with results driven management. While the resiliency of our organizations depends process work (task process and human process) especially through times of environmental change (political, egomaniac or geological), the mindset of managers can tend to track on driving results. Even then there is the complexity of espoused values and actual governing values that influence behaviors in organizations.

    It is as if there is an economy of meaning making. With results-driven and false-causality management there is sort of a constriction. Folks at the center of the organization or the top make meaning using simplistic terms and measures that they can easily convey while the rest of the org does not engage in the meaning making process. In this case, the plot is set and purpose suffers. People go to work but they are not really there. Then with the process driven or people focused approaches there can be this expansive economy of meaning where every one is given time and space to “by-in” and purpose something folks identify with. In this case, purpose reigns and while meaning is happening way out at the margins of the organization there’s not much of a plot. The story cycles around and around like a nebula, right?

    The history of an organization begins with an entrepreneurial skill set that working with both results and relational process integrated. This systemic, entrepreneurial approach is a seed in every organization that goes dormant when the managerial skill set comes in and writes the policies and procedures. After years of organizational calcification organizations forget about process and the relationship skills. That is why methods like Lean are so great, and engagement so valuable it can breathe new life into an organization.

    When an organization is in crisis a conservative line of thinking that emphasizes results however, doesn’t really cut it. Charisma and creativity do if the organizational leaders emerge from the confusion that things can’t be done the same way anymore.

    An analogy is a school of minnows and a whale, where when the tide does out. The whale gets beached. Then minnows turn back to deeper waters together.

    Thanks for the thought provocation.

  2. Thanks for this post. It’s a much more eloquent way of writing what I often preach. – Joseph

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Understanding A3 Thinking « Improve With Me

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