What comes after Lean?
by Michael Ballé
September 13, 2013 | 1 Comment | Post a Comment | Permalink
More Sharing Services Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on linkedin Share on email
I’m often asked: now that so many companies are doing Lean, what comes after Lean?
I’ve been stumped by this question because on the one hand, I can’t quite imagine an end to “doing Lean;” Lean remains in many ways a mystery we are continuing to explore. On the other, for a long time I hadn’t come across any other strong, truly new line of thinking.
Most management ideas out there follow the Taylorist program of capturing knowledge, embedding it into a system, and then getting less qualified people to do the work within the systems constraints. Taylor’s Big Idea, to separate brains from hands, is now supported by Big Data. New opportunities to turn craft into algorithms appear every day. For example, as much as I am a fan of Amazon, here is a case where the craftman bookseller (who discusses with you what book you might like and then rummages through shelves to find the one precious copy of “the book for you”) has now been replaced by 1) an automated web-interface and 2) operators who follow the instructions of state-of-the-art IT systems in gigantic warehouses whose job it is to make sure the book gets to your door. And this is clearly going to continue. No one has yet figured out how to put together the Amazon of medicine, but someone will. You can imagine an automated web-based system that “knows” your genome and medical history, to which you’ll turn before you go and visit a flesh-and-blood doctor. The future is now.
However, one strong movement I do find incredibly valuable now that is picking up speed is Design Thinking (which Jane Bulnes-Fowles wrote about recently on the Post).
Whereas lean thinkers believe that human creativity needs to be put back into the system at the operations kaizen level, design thinkers argue that businesspeople need to be skilled at...