I took the liberty aorded by the novel format to crunch the timeline of
Friedman Electronics’ Lean transformation. While possible, it’s far more
likely that the described changes would actually take place over a year or
more. Please understand that Lean isn’t a goal, it’s a journey. You’re never
really there. You’re always in pursuit.
e reason that the transformation takes so long is that you’re changing
a culture and cultures change slowly.
e characters in this book are all ctional, but their actions are con-
sistent with real people faced with personal transformation. As the book
begins, Jim, the central character, is faced with a nagging premonition
that he’s got to make gains quickly or lose his job.
Later, Frank, Jim’s Sensei (trainer and coach), makes it clear that it’s not
just Jim’s job that may be at stake, and that it may be his entire factory. at,
too, is consistent with real life. In the world of change management, we call
that the burning platform, the indisputable force beyond the control of any
one of those in question that galvanizes them into joint action.
e methodology described herein is consistent with a rst-class Lean
transformation. Moreover, in the six months Frank originally gives Jim,
one truly could turn a plant around and begin the transformation. What
Frank admits he did to shorten the cycle was to bypass the all-important
transference of knowledge. You’ll recall that he has Dale and Jim do that
as a follow-up to his work.
And just so you know, once won’t be enough. ey’ll have to drive the
new methodology home time and again by holding people accountable for
leading the new way.
If you’re an executive and are feeling that this is all too much work, I’d
oer that it’s actually less work than you are accustomed to. One of the
goals of Lean is to develop more time at the top levels of the organiza-
tion. It does so by pressing decision making further down the chain of
command. Leaders don’t just delegate work downward. ere is a pro-
cess involved that sets boundaries for decisions and teaches a data-driven
methodology for making good decisions.
Lean unburdens leaders of the mundane, allowing them to devote more
time to plotting the path forward, and spending time where work is being
168 • Author’s Notes
done—what Toyota calls Gemba, or “real place.” is allows leaders to
observe rsthand the day-to-day problems faced by their subordinates.
Toyota calls this process Genchi Genbutsu: “Go and see [for yourself].”
e authors of In Search of Excellence called it MBWA: Management by
Walking Around. Both see it as a critical role of leaders.
Trained at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, I am an avid supporter
of my country. Like you, I know our might has not come from force pro-
jected by our military alone. It also comes from our goodness as a people,
from our “Yankee ingenuity” and our willingness to do what it takes. And,
I’d add, from the benevolence of a deity who has chosen to prosper us, and
in whom we profess to trust. I am issuing a call to American businessmen
and women to rise to the challenge of becoming world leaders again, and
to do so one factory, one business at a time.
Sure, I’d love to see the auence of the 1950s again in my lifetime, but
my job is only to plant the acorn, knowing that it’s unlikely I’ll ever sit
under the oak. is book is my acorn.
It’s ve to midnight. Time is short, but there is still time. Act while
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