Chapter 13. Losing Their Way—or Not

Lean and TQ are temporal. Like good news, they come but usually don't stay. This book presents three main reasons. From Chapter 5, lean's popular definition—attack on wastes—is unexciting to executives, marketers, and customers. From Chapter 10, lean/TQ is a collection of an overwhelming number of best practices from which to cherry-pick, but no Big Idea. In this chapter, it is executive-level discontinuity.

The investigation combines trend data, web and library searches, interviews, and, where applicable, personal visits to the companies. Findings group into two general ways by which companies tend to be diverted from the lean/quality pathway—or, in a few cases, to stay on it. The two section headings are stated in the negative. Discontinuity upstairs, which often lords over other issues, is first. The other main diversion is chronic capacity starvation, which may sound odd because lean begins with the presumption of excess resources that must be winnowed down. But just as too little inventory can wreck a lean effort, so can too little capacity.


There is nothing like executive-level discontinuity to neutralize a fine process-improvement effort. There appear to be too many examples to count, and not many of the opposite kind: companies that have remained devoted process improvers for enough years to include changes in the executive suite. We'll begin with one of the rarities, and then give a few prominent examples ...

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