Chapter 15. How Overweight Companies Get Lean

This chapter examines special (not routine) ways that fat companies or business units have become lean. Most special of all are ways to pump up the human organization and keep its best people challenged. The chapter also looks at a common phenomenon: a company that once had employed the lean agenda with success, lost interest, and some years later stoked the lean embers and has them throwing off heat again. The discussion then turns to two common, critical tendencies that stand in the way of getting, or rejuvenating, process improvement. One is the products themselves—how they, and their components, tend to proliferate destructively. The other is company education and training, which often appear to be watered down, even in companies that have their own "university."

IMPORTING/EXPORTING LEAN EXPERTISE THROUGH ACQUISITIONS AND MERGERS

For the lean-driven company, one route to success is paved with astute acquisitions, mergers, and divestitures. Chapter 4 explored that topic as a side issue. Here the matter comes up again, this time with emphasis on the expertise angle. Deliberately or accidentally, some acquirers end up with additional lean/total quality know-how and experience that rivals the value of the acquired company itself. Two examples follow: Cardinal Health's acquisition of Alaris Medical and Terex's of Genie Industries.

CARDINAL HEALTH: ACQUIRING MORE THAN JUST A COMPANY

In 2004, when Cardinal Health, the medical-products giant, ...

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