Lean Kryptonite – Running To The Numbers

Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming

From my perspective the largest cause of failure for lean initiatives is continuing to run the company by the numbers. You know the month, quarter and year end projections. I recognize to remain in business companies must have goals, objective and targets. However you can’t just set an arbitrary number then believe your system can accommodate it.


Imagine telling Tony Steward your number 14 Chevrolet Impala must operate on half the fuel next race because that what is needed to make the monthly projection. While sounding crazy in this context this is exactly what happens in many manufacturing companies throughout the nation.

Whenever running a drag race or manufacturing widgets you must know one thing from the onset “How much resources (fuel, inventory) is required to operate a lean and robust process that results in operational linkage and flow”.

Oftentimes setting up lean Kanban lines results in higher inventory but the inventory is relevant and turning. Think of a NASCAR engine, as it improves you may require more tires per race. But advanced engine might also result in less pit stop for fuel and repairs.  Lets not leave out an additional victory or two.

Kanban lines optimize and stabilize inventory it does not always reduce. This stabilization is what allows you to make methodical and continual incremental improvements. If your lines are constantly starved of inventory you will only create an expedite loop and never get the benefits of lean.

Edwards Deming recognized that operating on visible numbers and observations alone could destroy organizations. This is one of his seven deadly diseases of management, number 5 “Operating on visible numbers alone”.  Dust the book ”Out of Crisis” off and review that section it will offer amazing insight to this issue.

Hope enjoyed this short discussion. I’m always looking for content and guest authors so if you have thought or a story please submit it.

Enjoy your lean Journey … remember it has no end!

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