Monday, February 04, 2013

Lean Thinking Aids Innovation Even if Poor Management Labeling Itself Lean Doesn't

Response to LinkedIn discussion asking if lean and innovation can co-exist (closed access and I don't think LinkedIn understands how urls work anyway so links wouldn't help):

I would say we too often criticize lean based on very poor applications called "lean." Studying Toyota is what gave us the name lean. Toyota has significant investments over the very long term in robotics; they innovated to create the Prius (and still dominate the hybrid market) and invest in research on things including home building, biotechnology and a thought controlled wheel chair.

It isn't lean thinking that is the problem with long term thinking. It is normally other bad practices (having nothing to do with lean) that create these problems. Sure plenty of places saying they are doing lean also have stupid practices like cost centers, short term ROI needed on everything, MBO... None of those are lean.

Innovation and lean can work great together, as can other measures to improve the performance of systems (in this case systems around innovation). Innovation comes from those close to the process and those outside the system. It isn't limited to one or the other. 

Yes, lean thinking can be applied to new situations with specific adjustments. Lean software ideas take lean thinking and provide some common practices that are often useful for those involved in software development. Toyota was definitely a follower in applying lean thinking to software development not a leader. Which shows even a company doing as many things right, as Toyota does, has plenty of room for improvement.

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