Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Annual Management Blog Roundup - John Shook & the Lean Enterprise Institute

This is the second installment of my favorite management blogs as part of John Hunter’s 2012 Curious Cat Management Blog Carnival.

John Shook is one of the most recognized names in lean thinking.  John spent 11 years at Toyota, and has authored (or co-authored) several books on the Toyota Production System.  He is currently Chairman and CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute ( and maintains a blog on the site entitled John Schook’s eLetters, where he has been posting since 2008.

In Encouraging Signs of Leadership, John addresses the complexities of leading a lean journey.  An organization is a system and transformation needs to take place on many dimensions.  Change must be driven on the system, not the components of the system.

In the post, Shook writes that, “Leadership is integrated into the work and not overlaid onto it.  And yet many prevailing conceptions of leadership fail to grasp this simple but essential truth.
In another post (Learning Lean – Collaboratively), Shook writes on my favorite lean topic: learning.  Lean practitioners are obsessed with learning but, as Shook writes, learning does not happen just because one wants it to.  It results from the application of tools and methods that enable a PDCA mindset.  Through PDCA, mechanisms like standardized work, kata, kaizen, and hoshin kanri all enable learning to occur faster.

In So What Are You Going To Do About It? (I love the title) Shook addresses the changes taking place in the world and the resulting impact they are having on business.  By once again returning to the idea of appreciating the system, he talks about the importance of understanding and improving the value stream as the way to deal with these large-scale changes.  By addressing problems in isolation, we’re doing nothing more than pushing costs from one part of the value stream to another.

W. Edwards Deming used to say that the system is as large as we’re able to manage.  I think the complexities and interactions in today’s world require us to see the system as much larger than was required in years past.  Understanding the supply chain, company processes, distribution, and customer tiers, although complex, is necessary for the long-term success of any organization.
Although Shook tends to push products and services of the Lean Enterprise Institute in many of his blogs, one can gain a wealth of information by merely reading and reflecting on his posts.  Focused directly on the application of lean, the influence of Deming is very evident. 

Additional information about the Curious Cat Annual Management Blog Carnival is available at

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