Computers and Muda

In a short, but interesting, thread on lean.org, Emma asks an interesting question: “Can an IT system support Lean?” She goes on to point out a general trend she has seen where the “kaizen guys” offer a lot of resistance to the introduction of sophisticated I.T. systems.

“Lean” stuff aside, I offer this recent post on Tech Republic, “The Seven Habits Of Wildly unsuccessful CIOs.”

Though the article is written about individual CIO’s, it applies to the sub-culture of information technology in general. However, there are a few points where I think the scope should be expanded.

#1, “Acquire technology simply because it’s new” talks mainly about upgrades. I would expand this to discuss “Acquire technology simply because it’s cool.” I.T. folks are biased toward computerized solutions. Now that’s great, and it is what we pay them for. But often there is a simpler way, perhaps with the information system as an enabler rather than the centerpiece. One of the fundamental principles we taught at a previous company was “Simple is best.”

In #3 “Create solutions in search of a problem” the article emphasizes off-the-shelf solutions vs. an in-house solution to everything. Again, though, I want to take the title of the paragraph and expand the scope. Just because it is slick and “does this” and “does that” does not mean it is useful. More features, and for that matter, more information, is not necessarily better. I want just what is necessary for the next step in the process. Any more provides a distraction, an opportunity for error.

#4 “Reach beyond the competency level” is classic. If you don’t know how to do it, please don’t say you do. It is OK to take on an experiment, but please control it and understand it before it is imposed on everyone. And make sure the “solution” solves a “problem.”

#6 “Failing to understand the relationship between technology and business” – read the technology chapter of “Good to Great” and “The Toyota Way.” Those both offer great insights on how great companies use technology as a multiplier without making it a boat anchor.

If you are an I.T. person, and are encountering the same push-back that Emma is from your kaizen people (or for that matter, push-back from anyone), I would recommend you read the article. Then do the following:

For each key point in the article, write down how an I.T. organization that does exactly the opposite would perform and behave with its customers. This is creating the idea of the ideal supplier.

Then take a hard look in the mirror. Compare your actual attitudes, beliefs, behaviors with that list. Talk to your customers, and ask them how they perceive your organization.

You are likely to find gaps between the ideal state you defined and your actual performance. If so, develop a plan to close those gaps.

One thought on “Computers and Muda

  1. Very good insight on the subject. It appears that the Seven Habits article was written almost 5 years ago. But it is still very applicable.

    We have an IT guy here where I work that fits perfectly into this article. I never thought about bringing him into our Lean program. Since we have computers everywhere doing everything here at my company, it seems to make sense that he should be a part of the Lean Team.

    “Who ever is not for Lean, is against Lean.” (I modified a quote from 2000 years ago)

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