The Confucian roots of Lean

Lean is still often seen as a set of tools to eliminate waste in processes, but the understanding that Lean is actually much deeper than that is spreading. However, even in the Lean community, the extent of that depth is rarely understood or discussed in detail.

In this post, I will strive to elaborate on the deep connection Lean has with Confucianism, what this means for the content of Lean, and what this means for the adoption of Lean in the Western world. Understanding this connection opens rich insight into Lean as well as to the reasons it is so difficult to adopt Lean in the West.

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The PDSA cycle is a core 21st century skill

What are the skills we need nowadays? Have they changed from what was needed before? The Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills research program, headquartered at the University of Melbourne, strives to provide answers to these questions.

They have identified multiple skills that are crucial to life in the 21st century, and one of particular interest is what they call collaborative problem-solving (CPS), which comprises both social and cognitive processing skills. This social nature of problem-solving is the aspect that is considered to be new.

However, if we take a deeper look at the applications of the PDSA cycle, we can easily notice how problem-solving has been social already before, and that these existing methods may also have more to contribute to the class room.

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Dynamic capabilities, the scope of strategy, and Lean

Dynamic capabilities framework is a promising framework for strategic management. Based on and expanding upon the resource-based view of the firm, its founding paper by David J. Teece, Gary Pisano, and Amy Shuen, Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management (1997), has been cited in almost 20,000 articles.

In this post, I will examine the basics of the dynamic capabilities framework and point to some interesting areas for future examination regarding its significance for the adoption of a variety of operating models, such as Lean, Lean startup, and social business.

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Is the Finnish manufacturing industry at a dead end?

It is a grim time to be working in manufacturing in Finland. Then again, it’s been grim times for more than 30 years already: Finland lost around 240,000 manufacturing jobs between 1980 and 2011, of which 100,000 between 2000 and 2011, and BCG expects Finland to lose a further 42,000 manufacturing jobs by 2020, which would bring the number of remaining manufacturing jobs to around one half of the 1980 level.

In this post, I will examine the situation more closely from the framework of McKinsey’s next-shoring perspective. The next-shoring perspective stipulates that there are two main drivers for selecting manufacturing location: proximity to demand and proximity to innovation. Their relative importance can differ from field to field.

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Lean in new employee orientation – gemba orientation

The company I work for recently hired a new CFO, and I was asked to give him orientation training on his very first day. HR department had a meeting room lined up, and everything was good to go for a couple of weeks inside a small room meeting all the top management and joining the club.

Yet, I felt uneasy about what was to come. I felt that the infinite loop of figures, reports, and meetings with top management could not possible prepare anyone for the work ahead. So, I turned to the Lean principles in search of a better way, and quite soon an idea came to me. It’s all about the gemba!

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How Lean is the Lean Startup?

What does this Lean Startup thing have to do with Lean? What can a startup learn from an established giant like Toyota, or vice versa? Where is my value-stream map, I need a value-stream map, right? The ground between established Lean practice and the Lean Startup movement is full of confusion, but things are far from hopeless – it is possible to form a relatively clear picture of this whole, and that is what this post is all about.

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Lean Startup in large corporations and the shadow of the future

Eric Ries has argued for an entrepreneurial career path to be created within large corporations in order to better promote innovation in his book, The Lean Startup. In this post, I will examine how this idea plays together with the game theory concept of the shadow of the future, which refers to the way our knowledge of future interactions affects our current decisions.

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Lean Startup’s Build-Measure-Learn loop and the PDSA cycle

In his book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries argues for ways to expand Lean thinking into the realm of startups, into the realm of huge uncertainty.

At the core of his model lies the Build-Measure-Learn loop, which is the key to genuine experimentation and validated learning through working with customers. But what is the relationship between the Build-Measure-Learn loop and the old Lean stalwart, the Plan-Do-Study-Adjust cycle?

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Is Lean for you?

Is Lean for you?Lean is much more than a toolkit, it is a philosophy. This fact is often repeated in many Lean books, but it is rare for those books to go deep into the value base of Lean, to reduce Lean to its bare core, and to build it back from there. Yet, that is exactly what I want to do now.

There is one rather simple question about values that is at the core of Lean. Your answer to this question determines for the most part whether Lean is for you or not.

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Children’s traffic parks through kaizen eyes

Children's traffic parks through Kaizen eyesA children’s traffic park is a park where children ride pedal-powered cars on roads and operate according to traffic laws. I have been to quite a few such parks, but it was my recent visit to one in Pori that really opened my eyes to the vices of batch production.

You see, I have hardly ever had to queue in a traffic park. However, in two attempts at Pori’s traffic park on different days, my children were unable to get a ride. On the first day, the queue was 2,5 hours, and on the second day, the queue was 1,5 hours. How on earth is this even possible?

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