I've come to refer to American Lean literature as "Boston Lean" to clearly differentiate it from Toyota materials generally translated from original Japanese. What makes me uneasy about Boston Lean is its focus on "the pursuit of perfection" through "waste elimination" where waste is "muda" (or non-value-adding activities). The typical Lean consulting firm, and again, I find myself mentioning, McKinsey, offer Lean through a defined approach that involves value stream mapping, identifying non-value-adding activities in the workflow, designing out those activities and then managing a change initiative to install the new, leaner process with the waste designed out. Like yesterday's post, my objection is to the process-engineering-centric approach and the notion that the process engineer knows best. This designed and managed change approach is truly the antithesis of of the Toyota kaizen approach where the workforce is empowered to make their own changes and processes evolve.I think your kanban ideas are excellent. I think you are defining "Boston lean" to really be badly done lean. There is a lot of badly done lean - just as it seems to me every management system is poorly executed very often (specific practices or management tools can be adopted quite successful fairly frequently but overall system just are not, from what I have seen). I am not sure if management ideas are necessarily poorly executed so often but they certainly are quite frequently.
There are tons of great lean blogs by people based in the USA (Jon Miller, Mark Graban, Kevin Meyer, Jamie Flinchbaugh, Tracey Richardson, Mike Stoecklein, Bill Waddell, Bob Emiliani ...). If people read what those people are doing and saying I don't think any of the negatives of "Boston lean" are present.
I am guessing "Boston lean" is a swipe at the Lean Enterprise Institute (since they are based in Boston). I don't really think that is accurate. It seems to me LEI support lean done right - a system that help employees improve, not some top down dictate approach. I agree with you that much of what is called lean is bad management. I think LEI and those I listed about (and many more) practice lean as it should be, and I don't think that practice of lean has the drawbacks you mention.
Related: Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System - Why Use Lean if So Many Fail To Do So Effectively - Rethinking or Moving Beyond Deming Often Just Means Applying More of What Dr. Deming Actually Said
====== David's comment on his blog ===========
Please take the time to observe what Lean consulting firms actually do. Do they sell managed transition initiatives that involve value stream mapping, designing out the waste and then deploying the expert designed "lean" (waste reduced) process definition? If you can refute that this is actually not what they are doing and how they make their money, then we can talk. Please show me the case studies where a true kaizen culture has been coached into organizations by these firms? Please show me the evidence where the workforce are empowered to perform their own kaizen events and that the consulting experts involved didn't actively design the new processes and manage the transitions.
====== my response to David's comment =======
You can look at what the people I suggested are doing, or you can chose not to. I am just suggesting that you would benefit from looking at them. I don't feel it is my job to provide the evidence packaged up for you. I also understand you have no reason to listen to anyone unless you feel like doing so.
I think your claims are what I said, looking at bad implementations calling themselves "lean" (and as I said, there are many) and defining that as Boston Lean. That is your right but it isn't so useful it doesn't seem to me. The main problem I see is that you seem to have missed all the good stuff being done with lean in the USA - that is your right, but I think you are missing a good opportunity to learn from others good work.
A great deal of great work is being done with the real lean principles -- respect for people and continuous improvement -- in the USA, and it has been done for decades.
You can ignore the good work being done by some because there is lots of bad stuff labeled lean. I just think the great stuff being done is useful and those interested in managing their organizations better would benefit from paying attention to the people doing good work (the ones I mention above and plenty of others).