Day 1 – May 10, 2017
The workshop team were introduced to Lean thinking through conversations with several Lean professionals that are working directly and helping others to work with Lean principles and practices. The morning began discussions with Robert Martichenko and Karyn Ross. It concluded with the team dividing into two groups and experiencing the differences between batch and queue and pull-based continuous flow; and learning the importance of balancing work in a process. This was done through a production simulation building planes using three different sets of rules and conditions.
In the afternoon the team watched Niklas Modig’s Efficiency Paradox TED talk and then spoke with Niklas about his observations researching Lean at Toyota and elsewhere. That was followed by discussions with Tom Richert and Bryan Wahl. Near the end of the afternoon the team played the Parade of Trades simulation to understand and discuss the impact of variation on a production system. The day ended with a plus-delta.
Day 2 – May 11, 2017
The day began with a viewing of Niklas Modig’s Lean on Yourself TED talk followed by viewing a video explaining the Lean Transformation Model developed by the Lean Enterprise Institute. Both were catalysts for a spirited discussion, cut off only be the need to board a bus to Georgetown, Kentucky, for a tour of the TMMK factory. The team was met by David Verble, who spent time orienting the team toward an effective approach to observing what is happening in the factory.
Following the 1:30 tour the workshop team again met with David for a discussion about their observations and questions. It was then back on the bus to the UC campus.
Day 3 – May 12, 2017
Friday began with a discussion between the team and John Shook. Among the topics discussed was the observation that arts and spirituality played an important role in the thinking behind elements of the Toyota Production System; and that this was missing from present day expressions of Lean.
What followed was a discussion designed to pull from the workshop artist participants their perception of Lean thinking. This was achieved through a LEGO(R) SERIOUS PLAY(R) methodology session led by Joanna McGuffey. The artists were taken through the process of using models to dig deeply into their own thought processes, and then developed shared thinking model to be able to articulate ideas and discussion about Lean thinking as they understood it.
What Was Learned
Still subject to further reflection, the following observations capture the major outcomes of the workshop, with respect to developing and understanding an Arts perspective.
It is important to understand that Artists have the same problems as Non-artists. At times Artists address these problems with a continuous improvement approach aligned with PDCA and at other times there are breakdowns as a result of these problems. All addressable problems are human problems and can be approached in the same way regardless of whether we define them to be of an artistic or non-artistic type.
There is tension in Lean thinking as expressed that comes from apparent inconsistencies and from the zeal which some express for the Lean approach. While the degree to which Lean thinking places importance on the individual is admirable, and the Toyota plant tour provided an example of Lean thinking working across a large group of people, there is a significant challenge in most enterprises to getting all people to commit to Lean thinking practices, and without such commitment it is not clear how it can work. In a Lean thinking environment work flows like a ballet, but how many people can or want to dance.
Lean thinking has roots in Arts and Spirituality and a focus on having a universal sense of purpose related-to the good of humanity. While the 30-year incubation period at Toyota might have integrated technology and capitalism into these roots, evidence of the influence of Arts and Spirituality is limited, and becomes even more diffused as the Toyota Production System becomes diffused into the broader, and very process-improvement focused, world. One thing that the current state of Lean thinking appears to do is to focus on value designation on one constituency – customers – and one period of time – the point of delivery. From an Arts and Spirituality perspective value is timeless and may take a lifetime or more to incubate. There is a continuum between this timeless value perspective and the human need for delivering time-specific value.
Lean is a way of thinking in search of a language. There is a language – it just does not appear to adequately communicate all that is intended. For example, the PDCA cycle is defined as a step-by-step process, and yet there is much fluidity in the Do and Check spaces between Plan and Act. There was discussion around Lean thinking supporting innovation and yet the language is much more focused on production (not necessarily manufacturing) process improvement and the connection to innovation is less apparent. There isn’t a sense that qualitative experiments are equally or maybe even more important than quantitative experiments. The Arts has much it can contribute to Lean thinking. The language of the Arts is much broader, and integrates not only emotion, but also the development of psychological states, toward intended purposes. If we can integrate Arts thinking into Lean thinking we can begin to work more effectively within the continuum of timeless value and time-specific value.