Jeff Liker asks (and answers) the title question in a great Industry Week blog article by the same title.
One of the biggest obstacles we in the lean community need to overcome is our own inertia around “Lean is a process for finding and eliminating waste.”
In the article, Liker brings up a point that is often lost on us: Looking for the problems and negative things kills morale.
The “waste” that you see is the result of underlying issues and culture. Stop overproduction in one place, and it either returns or pops up elsewhere because the underlying reasons for it were never addressed.
Operations that are not operating at a high level of lean typically are lacking underlying process discipline, which leads to these problems and they proliferate daily as the company is in a constant firefighting mode. Trying to eliminate waste in the current system and culture is like identifying and fighting problems—it is debilitating and a losing proposition.
I bolded that phrase for a reason.
We aren’t talking about a technical implementation here. We are talking about a shift in the underlying culture – the habitual ways people interact with one another, with the process, respond to challenges and problems.
Today we have, thanks to Jeff Liker and a few others, an excellent picture of an ideal version of Toyota. We know what it looks like.
Getting there is an entirely different proposition, as most companies that have tried this stuff know first hand. It is hard.
What is beginning to emerge, though, is that the thinking pattern that is learned through solving these problems the right way (vs. just implementing tool sets) is the same thinking pattern required to shift the culture.
It is hard. You have to do the work. But the way to get there is emerging.