Lean Management Systems
You have to manage a system. e system doesn’t manage itself.
W. Edwards Deming
When a good person meets a bad system, the bad system always wins.
IN A NUTSHELL
e purpose of a Lean management system is to deploy and sustain a Lean
production or fulllment system because without a Lean management
Lean implementation oen falters, sometimes fails, and virtually
never lives up to its long-run promises. e one universal element in a
successful Lean management system is leadership. Leaders are the driv-
ing force that can motivate employees at all levels to achieve and sustain
a Lean management system. is applies no matter what the actual posi-
tion is called, whether a leader who is responsible for a team or depart-
ment, a value stream or plant, or a business unit or the organization as a
whole. Expectations for processes and the ability to compare actual versus
expected are the threads that connect the elements in a Lean manage-
ment system culture. e person at the top of the unit, however dened,
is in the position to set expectations and, more importantly, to follow up
on them. e higher in the organization Lean leadership extends, the bet-
ter the chances for success.
94 • e Lean Management Systems Handbook
No one exemplies the rise and failure of a Lean management system
better than Toyota. Early in this chapter, we consider some recent chal-
lenges at Toyota that we believe unequivocally demonstrate this assertion.
Recently, around the time of the recession, the famous auto giant was in
chaos and some were calling for its imminent collapse. e world famous
Toyota Production System (TPS) was under true re: gas prices were high
and getting higher; the recession was taking full hold of the American
economy; Toyota’s inventory of gas-guzzling small utility vehicles was
increasing (even as demand was decreasing); and a media scandal regard-
ing mismanagement, product quality, and massive recalls was threatening
to be the downfall of Toyota. When all the dust settles and the nal analy-
sis is made, who knows exactly how history will describe these days. I can-
not help but wonder if this time could be remembered as one of the nest
hours in Toyota’s history. e strength of their Lean management system
came to the rescue and saved their company when most other companies
facing the similar challenges would have folded. Time will tell.
First, we present an overview of Toyota over the past few years. We dis-
cuss some of their challenges and shortfalls; but, more importantly, their
response to adversity was a testament that even the best companies at Lean
management can lose their way from time to time and bounce back from
thenegative eects of weak management. My father once said to me: “Life has
a way of knocking down even the best of us from time to time; it’s what we
do aer we are knocked down that ultimately denes our character.” Toyota’s
response during this challenging time speaks volumes and demonstrates its
commitment to the Lean management system for which it is famous.
e main focus of this chapter is on a basic and fundamental high-level
Lean management system model based on the indivisible concepts of
education, application, and communication of all things Lean. We pres-
ent these as emanating from a prism, much the same way that light is
dispersed into its component parts of the spectrum. Your dened Lean
management system is at the center of the prism. We discuss a few com-
mon complementary management/assessment models in this chapter as
foundations on which to build your company-specic Lean management
system. e house of Lean management, along with all subsequent chap-
ters in this handbook, contains components to consider integrating into
your Lean management system.