Lean Manufacturing, Kaizen and AI

shutterstock_260802371-300x222The topic of Lean Manufacturing, Kaizen and Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has been a side conversation between a  colleague and a potential client who is very much into Lean and referred me to www.lean.org which I found very helpful. I looked at the Principles of Lean and determined that the Principles as stated on that site are all about value and that is already a good fit with AI, which is about valuing. I really enjoyed reading them.

What I’ve done below is to share what came up for me as I read the Principles.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as a framework for positive change, is an energizing experience where contributors speak up, listen to each other and feel valued.  The carefully designed opening appreciative discovery interview facilitates such possibilities.   The experience of AI  creates a collective capacity  towards some desired end or state of being. In the case of Lean, it would be to deliver the outcomes of Lean and facilitate a shift in the culture to achieve Lean philosophy and practice.

So here’s my two cents as I look at the Principles of Lean:

Principle 1: “Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product family”

…already a case for using AI to identify customer value.

  • “Why is it so hard to start at the right place, to correctly define value? Partly because most producers want to make what they are already making and partly because many customers only know how to ask for some variant of what they are already getting. They simply start in the wrong place and end up at the wrong destination. Then, when providers or customers do decide to rethink value, they often fall back on simple formulas “lower cost, increased product variety through customization, instant delivery” rather than jointly discovering value and, at the same time challenging old definitions to see what's really needed.” This is the DISCOVERY PHASE and identifying the positive core.

Principle 2: “Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating every step and every action and every practice that does not create value.”

  • The expanded explanation mentions “learning to See”

What a wonderful concept – also learning to see is appreciating what is and what could be – it could be viewed as taking the what the customer values and mapping that to the positive core to learn what they can do more of and what further possibilities exist that they haven’t yet thought of. Moving from DISCOVER to DREAM PHASE.

Principle 3: “Make the remaining value-creating steps occur in a tight and integrated sequence so the product will flow smoothly toward the customer.”

  • Flow is such a lovely term

If I take an unappreciative view and put on a skeptical hat, I could ask “is this going back to the old mass production lines of mindless activity?” However, I chose to view it as more engaging of the whole person. Anyway, this Principle calls for APPRECIATIVE DESIGN.

Principle 4. “As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.”

If we are interested in mapping these Lean Principles to the AI 4-D cycle then this “Pull “ principle is more Appreciate Design and bridging into DESTINY. It seems akin to the continuous improvement piece.

Principle 5: “As these steps lead to greater transparency, enabling managers and teams to eliminate further waste, pursue perfection through continuous improvement.”

I love the notion of “transparency”. This definitely DESTINY – on going learning, improvements in all of the above…the iterative process of valuing.

This is so much fun – blending and cross-fertilizing.

PS, a quick refresher of the 4-D Cycle

Appreciative Inquiry Resources 4-D Cycle

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