Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Lean is supposed to about getting rid of waste

I could barely believe my eyes when I read today that public sector managers are now going back to school, gaining an FICiPS en route, to learn about 'lean'. It's not that I don't agree with the need to implement 'lean' thinking in the public sector, indeed back in the 90s I was writing about the application of lean supply in the public sector. No, my concern is that the UK government have been preaching the 'lean' message for years too - indeed we have the 'Lean sourcing: The standard solution'.

What has gone wrong with their recruitment that they now need to invest in training for these managers - did the recruitment process actually let staff through the system without checking their understanding? Are we to view this as an admission that central government is 30 years behind the curve in management thinking?

My suggestion is quite simple: give each of the managers who require training a copy of either The Machine that Changed the World, Lean Thinking, or Systems Thinking in the Public Sector get them to research why the Japanese local government has struggled to implement 'lean', and then set within their personal objectives an appropriate objective to pilot a 'lean' initiative, reporting on the difficulties, how they overcome the difficulties, and the lessons learnt. No £17,000 training course, no mercy, if they can't deliver chase them - I can't see that after so long any other approach will work.

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