I was having a conversation with a lean leader recently, and he said in passing that they don't teach lean much in business schools. Never having been to business school, this gave me pause. It also reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague who recently received a Master's degree in Industrial Engineering. When I asked him whether or not they taught lean in industrial engineering (I'm an electrical engineer), he said that it depended a lot on whether the instructor came from industry or academia.
So the natural question I have is why isn't lean being widely taught in schools today? There is ample evidence to prove its effectiveness and importance in industry today. American manufacturing is in crisis. We've proven we can solve the problem. All of us know this to be true. So why haven't the academics caught on?
Turning the lens inward, I realize that much of my job is to teach lean. So I think about all of the lean teaching that I've been called upon to facilitate. And I think of all the glassy eyed stares or the unconvinced head nodding I've seen. And of all the times I've said something like, "It'll make more sense when you see it" or "Go to gemba" or "Trust me, it works." And I have to admit that when I sat through those black belt training classes and read all those books I didn't really get it either. Until I did it.
Somehow with lean there's this amazing bridge that you cross from concept to action. And until you cross it, you can't really see all the possiblities. So the question I pose is, can lean ever really be "taught"? And is this difficulty the root cause of why we haven't been able to foment a lean revolution in this country?
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
The picture above is of a sidewalk over which I run most days. If you look closely, you’ll see that a section of the sidewalk has been replaced with fresh, new cement. The reason is that the old section was pushed up, broken, and a terrible trip hazard on dark winter mornings.
Naturally I’m pleased with the improvement, but the lean thinker in me can’t help but see a flaw in this fix. After all, look just to the left of the sidewalk and you can see the tree that caused the sidewalk damage in the first place. In this case the root cause of the problem is, well, a root. Assuming the tree continues to grow and the roots continue to spread, it seems like we’ll be paying to replace this sidewalk again in the future.
Anyone else out there patching a sidewalk with a tree growing underneath it?
Posted by Evan Durant at 11:00 AM