People oen ask what Lean looks like in research and development (R&D),
or ask to see a site that is operating in a Lean way. is gives me pause
because Lean in R&D doesnt necessarily look dierent than any other
R&D environment, but it does feel dierent, and its operations might as
well be on dierent planets for all of the similarities they share.
at said, I am le with the unenviable task of describing a feeling.
Luckily, nearly every human has experienced this feeling and, therefore,
we just need to link ourselves to it through analogy. For most of us, there
was a time in our lives when we were a part of a group, perhaps a sports
team, perhaps a choral or jazz ensemble, perhaps just a group of very close-
knit friends, who achieved this state or feeling. Eventually, your group had
worked together, been together, practiced together, performed together,
and, perhaps, gotten into and out of trouble together long enough that
each member felt he or she had intimate knowledge of what the other
group members would do in a given circumstance. You just knew, without
speaking, signing, or even looking at each other what would come next.
Any emerging circumstance will t seamlessly, naturally into the group’s
ongoing activities. e jazz band that pulls a yell out of the audience and
distills it into a trumpet solo that then passes to the brass and on to the
rhythm section has felt this. e hockey team that ows to the puck, passes
without looking, adjusts to the greatest and least eort of its opponent,
and scores seemingly without eort has experienced this. e friends who
just know that, because it is Tuesday and the sun is out, Frisbee in the park
is on (and bring extra water because someone will bring a new friend to
join the group) has this feeling.
e feeling is an intimate sense of community, of belonging, combined
with an indescribable but intensely energizing feeling of being “on.” It
involves trust and shared experience, a common purpose, and a sense of
xxii • Introduction
place. It involves a sense of personal commitment to others, and a group
commitment to the person, but it neither involves nor requires a hierarchy,
only shared capability, knowledge, direction, and common bonds.
ose grand words may strain credulity, and yet I watched teams at
Pzer build just such trust and condence, collaboration, and capabil-
ity, and do so in short order. Moreover, the same values that accrued to
our group of friends, our sports teams, and our musical ensembles, when
they reached that level of connection, accrued to these R&D teams. eir
performance jumps to an almost ridiculous level. Following one example,
a teams speed of scientic discovery increased by a factor of six; their
newly developed scientic approach invalidated several disease hypoth-
eses being actively pursued in the laboratory and, much more expen-
sively, in the clinical trials of many global pharmaceutical companies.
at same science identied likely causal pathways that no one had yet
identied, creating uncharted opportunity for the team to pursue.
Other levels of performance changed just as dramatically. Scientic
milestones were never missed. Progress was made on previously intrac-
table problems. New paradigms of research, testing, and data manipula-
tion emerged. New paradigms of project and scientic management were
created, freeing up as much as 50 percent of management’s time to invest
in creating even more eective environments in which people and inno-
vation could thrive. e whole atmosphere within the work area changed.
It was noticeably calmer, happier, and more energized than other work
spaces in the company. Conservatively, the level of performance increased
a good two orders of magnitude in just ve months.
at said, concrete outward signs of change were dicult to quantify,
since, fundamentally, the dierences between Lean and non-Lean R&D
arise from dierent assumptions about how the universe works and how
people work, interact, and ourish in that universe, as well as about how
best to construct an environment in which people can create and deliver
valuable innovations within that universe. ese dierent assumptions
have no outward physical component. e same people still read scientic
literature, still design and execute experiments in the same laboratories
with the same equipment they always did; they just think about their work
in a radically dierent way, and that makes all the dierence.

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